She made more meals than could ever be calculated; prepared rooms, snacks, desserts and more desserts for visits spanning every season and most holidays. She unwrapped and then swaddled in love each of my babies upon first look. She set up fold out couches and makeshift beds as we brought home one, then two, then three and even four kids. She allowed the dog in the house when we all knew it was a big ask. She cleaned toothpaste laden bathrooms and washed so many sheets after each visit. My mother-in-law never complained. Not once. She provided, cared and loved for years on years.
Her body betrayed her some months ago when a little stroke in her brain caused some not so little problems with her memory. That short-term memory is kind of a big deal, and as Kalie (my sister-in-law), her husband, Kevin and I sort it all out (we don’t exactly know what to sort out, or even really how to sort it out), we partner as a team to help the one we love navigate the days in her own apartment 15 miles from Kalie, 600 miles from us. (Though she alternately travels with us to our home as we step into guiding her in this tricky ground.)
Sometimes she’s quite cognoscente of her lapses, sometimes she’s not. But always she’s afraid of being a burden. Daily she enjoys the company, puzzles, walks, dogs to scratch and meals to share ~ but lingering somewhere is a desire to not be in the way. It’s a difficult battle to win. I try to put myself in her shoes, how will I feel if my children one day help me navigate my days? How will I feel purpose in days like this?
Over all those years, each time I arrived at her house, I exhaled and rested while she worked and took care. I left with a soul and body that had experienced an intermission. This is what I want to give her now. It’s all rather complicated and sometimes tricky when you kind of need but don’t really want. When you believe you can because you don’t really notice the gaps and holes.
This journey through life is to be made together, in grace. We were created for relationship, sometimes that means baking bars to later pull out of the freezer and making up the couch, sometimes it means enjoying someone else’s soup and letting others swaddle you in a love that you paid forward over lots and lots of years. And sometimes it might just feel backwards and uncomfortable, but always we hope it feels like love.