Thursday, July 5, 2018

In Memory of Marion

As stated previously, my mother-in-law passed away a couple of days ago.  To say we're heartbroken is an understatement, and she'll be missed to no end.  Her's was the most gentle and loving of souls, and as such, she endeared herself to all who met her.  She really was universally loved by all.

How she got there is a mystery.  She was a child of the depression, and like others of her peer group from that time, she grew up without  This is especially true in today's standards, where we have no concept whatsoever of what true hardship is like.  The poorest among us now have cell phones, air conditioning, and food stamps.  Those would have been absolute miracles in the 1930's where starvation and death were not atypical.

When the war came, the newly married Marion found herself with her soldier husband being sent to Europe, and with her going to live with her new in-laws.  Time with them was horrible - these days we'd call it abusive - and it was exacerbated by having a new baby.

Finally, the war ended, and life began to progress.  However, there was still extreme hardship, which came in forms like the loss of her infant son, or the loss or her hearing.

With this hard background, you'd expect a bitter, angry woman.  What you got was the exact opposite.  She was a woman of deep faith, unquenchable kindness and love, and the epitome of a Christian life.  I'd defy you to find someone that matched the definition of "Christian" better.

So many will remember her for so much, but there are a couple of things that stood out in my interactions with her:

  • She loved to cook - it was truly a labor of love for her, and it was clearly a way that she showed those around her that she loved them.  Her specialities were vast and everyone has a favorite, which is funny as there isn't that much crossover.  That's how much game she had in cooking.  And everything she did was incredible.  Even a simple fried egg was the best I've had in my life, and, unfortunately, impossible to replicate.  In fact, in speaking with all of her offspring, nobody can get things just right to match how Marion's food tasted.  I'd like to think that's because everything she ever cooked was served with an extra quarter cup of love, and given where it was coming from, it is impossible to match.
  • I never heard a cross word come out of her lips.  In hearing stories from my wife, I know there were some, but in my 25+ years with her, I never heard one.  Not a single one.  The closest time was when my wife and I were to be married.  Marion approached us and handed us a check to help with the wedding.  Marion did not have any extra money, and I couldn't accept it.  I let her know that while we appreciated it, it wasn't necessary, and I proceeded to hand the check back to her.  She looked at me, narrowed her eyes, and said "I expect that you will accept this gift in the spirit in which it is given," in a tone that was flat ice cold.  I had never heard or seen anything like it, and coming from this small, genteel woman, it scared the living crap out of me.  I took the check, thanked her profusely, and hoped I'd never see that side or Marion again.
  • There is only one thing that I ever saw that Marion hated, and that's when those that she loved got ready to leave.  That's probably part of the reason why leaving her house was usually a 45-minute process.  From the time the departure announcement was made, Marion immediately went into "food packing" mode as nobody left her house without something to eat.  Talking and stories would continue, and once you got your coat on, you knew that you'd still have 20 minutes more before you got out the door.  She was always sad, and made us promise to come to see her again soon; sometimes even pinning us down to specific dates.  She was at her absolute happiest with family around, and when those times ended things were hard for her.  Despite being sad, she was always generous with a big hug and an "I love you."  Always.
There's so much to her.  Incredible gardner (and, subsequently, pickle and sauerkraut maker), once-a-year drinker (one fuzzy navel), ice cream lover, seamstress extraordinaire, graceful dancer, coffeeaholic, awesome sense of humor, and about the best hugger you'd ever care to meet.  There's more to her than I can add here, and no matter where I'd stop I'd be doing her memory a disservice, so now is as good of a place as any. 

I close now in pointing out the irony of the act of leaving.  It was the thing she hated the most when we did it to her.  She's getting us all back right now.  Oh, how much we don't want her to go, how we want to pin her down on when we'll see her again, and how we wish we had time for one more hug and one more "I love you."  The turnabout is complete, and how I wish maybe we'd lingered a bit longer all those times, even if we had to stop at the local gas station in town because the car had been warming up in the driveway for 45 minutes as we were saying our "good-byes."

Godspeed, Marion.  Enjoy your rest, as you have certainly earned it.  Thank you for all you have done, for the example you set, for the legacy you left, and especially for loving me - "warts and all."  

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