I mentioned earlier that I wanted to eventually write about my mother-in-law who passed away December 26, 2009. I have thought about so many wonderful things I could say about her. There are just not enough words to describe what a wonderful mother-in-law God blessed me with. My husband has always been an only child, but she told me that now she has a daughter and a son. My own mother loved her as a sister, so did not mind sharing me. As a matter of fact, when the three of us went places together, they were almost always mistaken as sisters. Their personalities are very similar, which is why I loved her from the minute I met her. I could never have asked for a better mother-in-law than the one God hand-picked for me. My mother-in-law was one of my dearest and closest friends. My one and only complaint is I only had just a little over 8 years of my life with her.
My mother-in-law made the best of every single day of her life. She had this amazing smile when she saw something she appreciated or that made her happy…you know the kind of smile…right up to the eyes? It’s really not something that can be put on paper, but I want to say it anyway so that one day in the future when I read this, I will be reminded again of her wonderful smile.
In August 2008, she, her husband and I went on vacation to the Inn at Christmas Place in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee (my hubby had to work). This is an amazing hotel that is decorated for Christmas year round, thus the name. Literally as we walked in, her mouth fell open. She was ohhing and ahhing (as was I) at every little step even on our way to the registration desk. I had brought along my digital camera, so I took many pictures which is the slide show I posted at the top of the page. She directed me each day as to what she wanted me to take pictures of and I obligingly snapped each shot.
On this same trip, the three of us also went to the Ripley’s Aquarium in Gatlinburg, TN. It was the first time my father-in-law had ever been to such a place and he was as awestruck there as she and I were at the hotel! SO ONCE AGAIN, I took MANY pictures. It was here that I actually attempted a picture of Freda and myself because I realized all I had pictures of were scenery to commemorate our trip! Neither of them knew how to operate my camera, so I realized quickly it was going to be one of those “hold the camera toward us at arm’s length” kind of shots. WELL bless my mother in law’s heart, she just kept shutting her eyes because of the flash being so close…EVERY SINGLE TIME! We tried MANY times before she finally gave up. I think it was giving her a headache! She said “you’d better erase those!!! I secretly kept ONE! Now I am SO GLAD I kept that one because it is so precious to me. Anytime you see pointing in the aquarium slideshow, it is usually Freda as she was very excited to see the aquarium, too. There is also a picture on there of her and her husband from the side enjoying an exhibit as she points. She had asked me to leave them out of the pictures, so I had tried to do just that. I did not realize until I made this slideshow that I had captured one of them anyway. Yet again, one I will always cherish!
As anyone who has ever read my blog knows, I am disabled from fibromyalgia. Therefore, when I am on vacation, I cannot stay out all day long. I MUST REST and I cannot walk very far. Not my mother-in-law, though! She goes to Pigeon Forge to SHOP, SHOP, SHOP! This town is known for its outlet malls. Our routine was generally like this: We would get up and eat breakfast at the Inn because they have an AMAZING full-serve breakfast. My mother-in-law always thought of everyone else’s needs. My father-in-law took care of his mother 24/7 and just needed a break. She knew his favorite thing to do was to sit out on the balcony and just simply relax, so whenever they went to the mountains or beach together, she always got a room as high up as possible for the best view for him. That is just how thoughtful she was. At this hotel, she did just this. He went to the room after breakfast and she and I would go out for a little while. She has always loved the Liz Claiborne outlet more than any other store and of course that was the FIRST store we went to. There is also one closer to home that she used to take me to. ANYWAY, usually she would look for a minimum of one new purse on each trip to Liz Claiborne, in addition to clothes. Liz Claiborne usually has a deal where if you buy something at a certain price, you get a certain purse for a special deal. She ALWAYS insisted on buying me the special purse! This is the only way I would let her buy it for me. She would try and TRY to buy me things on the trip, but I was there to spend time with her more than any other reason and I did not want her to spend her hard earned money on me. I enjoyed watching her buy things for herself. I also did a little shopping myself, but I am just not much of a shopper.
SO after we went to one or two stores, usually my legs would get pretty tired if they did not have the little scooters, so she would take me back to the Inn and drop me off. I would go in and take a nap while she shopped for hours more! THEN she would call me in time for me to get ready for supper and I would go eat supper with her at various restaurants each evening. We both liked to try different places and we would have the best talks. We then would bring supper in for my father-in-law. I would again be tired and go to bed. However, she was still in FULL SWING and she would go to the balcony with her husband. They would sit out there the rest of the evening together talking, laughing and enjoying the view.
I am not especially fond of heights and they learned this for the first time on this trip. They thought it was hilarious that I did not want to sit on the balcony with them because it seemed so tiny to me AND was too far from the ground for my taste. There was a waterfall nearby for a pond, or something like that, and they both enjoyed listening to this in the midst of the traffic noise. They wanted me to come out far enough to hear it. I finally braved it long enough to do that, but I preferred listening to it from the ground. They loved it, though and had the best evenings out there together.
Freda had called me just a few weeks ago and INFORMED me she was taking ME AND JAMES to the beach for a vacation for New Years. The beach and the mountains were her two favorite places to go for vacation. She had told me that she, her husband and I all needed some de-stressing time and she knew just the place to take us, Orange Beach in Alabama. She has always wanted to take me to the famous restaurant there where they toss rolls, too. Then when I told her that her son would also be off work for all but one day of the time she wanted to go, she was excitedly checking the accomodations to see if possibly all four of us could go. We were in the process of planning for this trip when she hurt her shoulder and ultimately had surgery, then passed away 3 days after the surgery. We never got to take this last vacation with my in-laws and I never got to share the beach with my mother-in-law.
For her beach trip with her sisters to Orange Beach just a couple summers ago, I had made her a beach bag (pictured above and also in more detail in category FAMILY on my blog from my birthday party August 2008). She picked out the embroidery design of a baby macaw that I purchased from www.emblibrary.com and then I designed the bag based on this design. She did not want to use the beach bag because generally if she considers something precious, she puts it away instead of using it, so I lined the entire outside bottom 2/3 of the bag with vinyl so that the sand would not damage the beauty of the bag. I told her to take the bag and enjoy the bag, that is what I made it for. I do not know if she actually took it out on the beach, but I found it at her house with her beach towels stored in it. When I had given it to her, she had that wonderful smile on her face I had mentioned before and glimmers of tears in her eyes.
Freda’s birthday would have been this week, so this week was especially tough, yet again for our family. I miss my mother-in-law every single day. I used to speak to her almost every day and I now often catch myself scrolling to her work number before I remember I cannot call her anymore. The family is going through many difficult struggles and we need God’s guidance more than ever. I know He has seen us through this far and His plans are much bigger than anything we can imagine. Prayers are always needed for the entire family.
I know that because my mother-in-law passed away the day after Christmas, this holiday will always feel different at our home now, but I refuse to forget the true meaning of Christmas being the birth of our Saviour without whom there would be no hope of eternity, without whom there would be no hope of us seeing my dear mother-in-law again, either. I wrote to the Inn at Christmas Place and told them how greatful I was that they made such a special hotel for all to enjoy. I told them our situation and how difficult Christmastime will be for us now, but that I shall always cherish my memories from that trip in August, one reason being that they chose to make such a different type of hotel. They wrote back and shared this with me:
“The angels are always near to those who are grieving, to whisper to them that their loved ones are safe in the hand of God.” ~Quoted in The Angels’ Little Instruction Book by Eileen Elias Freeman, 1994.