Sunday, February 5, 2012

How to make a memorable exit

My mother in law lost her battle with breast cancer yesterday. She left my life much the way she entered it - in a way I will never forget.

The day I met her, I knew I was in for a challenge. She knew I collected carnival glass. Our first conversation started with her asking me "You don't collect that ugly iridescent purple stuff do you?" Why, yes, I do. Sigh. Our relationship was like that for a long time.

Then something happened. I gave her her first grandchildren. My standing improved in her eyes.

We continued in a friendly way for several years, though it was clear we didn't understand each other. Then, again, several important events happened.

Her husband developed Alzheimer's Disease. That was a horrible time. Shortly thereafter she was diagnosed with breast cancer. All of our worlds turned upside down.

We helped her find help for her husband and then concentrated on helping her. After months of hell, the old Ruth started to come back. After a few years our confidence returned. She traveled, gambled, lived the life she wanted to live. Then cancer returned. Our worlds turned upside down again.

The last year and a half has been a blur of hospitals, doctors, tests, and treatments. It's also been a time of friends showing her how much they loved her, helping wherever they could. I learned a lot during that time. I learned how to maintain grace during pain. I learned what it means to be a good friend to someone and how to allow people to be good friends to you. I learned that words are important. Having that time to say everything that needed to be said was a gift.

I also learned how to make an exit that people will remember.

I predicted she would leave at a time when it was quiet and when I, her son and our children were not there. I didn't think she could leave if any of us were present. I was right. The girls and I were at our home. Mike was at the store. Her friend was by her side. She did exactly as she wanted.

Then she got ornery.

The transport people arrived a few hours after Mike called them. Two nice men appeared, one seeming very kind and gentle, the other more formal and proper. They were polite and friendly, though not too much so. They went to their van to fill out paper work and after a while appeared at the front door with chagrined faces. The poor man was embarrassed to tell us for the first time in his life, certainly in his professional career, he had locked his keys in his van. Nothing could happen until a co-worker could come and unlock the door. Fearing our yelling, crying or other form of annoyance, he was relieved when all we could do was laugh. We assured him that this turn of events was not his fault. Ruth said she would need to be dragged out of this house and this was her way of extending her stay. She had a mischievous streak and it was appearing again. Those poor men were relieved. It was a nice jolt of levity at a time we needed it most.

Thank you Ruth. And goodbye. You will be remembered as someone who made us laugh and occasionally made us want to bang our head into a wall. Just as you wanted it.

1 comment:

  1. That was written beautifully. I felt a lot of that when I read it.