In the spirit of celebrating love after death, I’m sharing this letter of my late husband’s to his deceased mother that I came across recently. Unlike the stereotypical mother-in-law / daughter-in-law relationship, I adored my mother-in-law. Nancy was a character, as was her son. I like to think of Robert and his mother together now. At peace. Comfortable. Unbroken.
To my widowed comrades and those who have lost loved ones, I hope you find peace and comfort in your memories.
[Robert’s letter to his mother, post mortem]
Did you know we were going out for Chinese food just before you died? It sounds like a book title, but just when we told you that, you finally gave up your struggle…and left us. I hope wherever you are that you got there by a rainbow.
It was the hardest thing to watch, but I guess we would all have regrets if we weren’t with you. What did it feel like? Did you hear our tears of sorrow, and Dad’s tears of regret. He did love you and told you that just before you died. He probably took your death the worst…maybe he underestimated just how much you meant to him, and what living alone means for a guy his age.
Richie, Toni and the kids are fine. Paula and I are OK too. We quote you often…all your little pearls of wisdom. Did you like my eulogy? I wanted to capture what a unique woman you were…eccentricities and all.
You were so loved and respected by your friends and family. I still feel your loss. So many times I still have the urge to telephone you…then I realize…I don’t have your new number.
Your legacy as a mother and a person still, and always will, live on in my heart.
I could always say anything to you, and you were never without an opinion. Usually well-meaning. I just wish you listened to your own advice.
Your struggle with cancer was difficult to watch, but I know we all did a good job of managing your care and making sure you were comfortable. But I must admit, after all the doctor visits, your death was a relief for us, and I’m sure for you.
I just wish you were happier, even during the years before you got sick. I realized how unhappy you were and how you often created the things that made you unhappy. I also wish that you could have treated Dad better. You both just couldn’t say nice things to each other until the bitter end…that’s heavy, and it was all such nonsense anyway.
You had much to live for, and I’m not so sure you really realized that. But your mistakes will enlighten me, and what doesn’t kill me, will make me stronger.
You were a wonderful mother, always, and I mean always, there when I needed you. From sitting outside my kindergarten class when I was afraid to stay in school, to encouraging me to be whatever I wanted to when I grew up.
What would you do if you came back to us? I still haven’t told anyone about the time you scraped the car driving home from Grandma’s. And I cherish the memories of our trip to Ireland. Thank God we went. And I was always so happy that you knew what a wonderful and fine person Paula is.
Thanks for teaching me to always be myself, match my colors, don’t be afraid to cry, write ‘thank you’ notes, put the stereo loud when I like a song, marry for love, be liberal and open-minded, speak up, give people hearty hellos, eat good food and have some sense of God. It all mattered and made me a better person.
How many times have we all wished we could take the past and bottle it. Instead, it remains behind us, with its many memories. You’re part of so many. I hope we’ll meet again someday.
We’ll be at the doll collectors show in May…wish you could be there.
Your loving son,