Life is comedy and tragedy. The minute you are born you spend the rest of your time on earth either living or dying.
Brigette made the most out of every minute I knew her. I don’t have a lot of classic “mother-in-law” stories, actually none. I am writing this on my laptop and I Googled ‘mother in law.’ What I found were links to mother in law jokes, an ad for a therapist “if you have Mother in Law problems?” and I couldn’t help but laugh. Mother in laws have been the fodder of jokes, TV shows, and just maligned. But, I was never able to relate to this since I had the best mother-in-law in the world. She was mom to me. She and I had a wonderful relationship in the 25 years I have been married to her daughter. I would like to attribute that to my sterling personality or her obvious good taste, but I think it’s more likely a case of my wife being a pretty amazing person and therefore her mother loving anyone she loved.
On October 17th 1989 I proposed to Stephanie (and she said yes!). As we were making phone calls to our relatives telling them, the conversation with her Mom had a chilling silence.
Stephanie: Mom, Tony asked me to marry him and I said Yes!!!!
Brigette: ….. Oh, Um…. I was hoping to talk to him first. But, yeah- Great! We Love him and I know you two will be happy!
What we found out later was that her mom had been saving a family diamond ring for me to propose with. I had used my grandmother’s ring. Shortly afterward we made a new ring using the diamonds from both rings.
I’m not sure how many times I need to learn this lesson, but once again, I have been reminded that money just isn’t that important. I am in Iceland right now. A long way from my family when I got the news. I have been calling the airline all week to see if there were any seats available on an earlier flight. Any seats, Business class, First class, anything , I just want to be home.
After the initial shock, there is only one word to describe how I feel. Pissed.
I am pissed that someone so amazing lost her life.
I am pissed that someone so good couldn’t keep living when so many terrible people continue to.
I am pissed that a mother of 3, mother-in-law of 3, and grandmother of 8 was taken from her family.
I am pissed that an amazing friend was taken from those who adored her.
I am pissed that our last communications were confined to e-mails.
I am pissed that our future grand children will never know one of their great-grandparents.
But most of all, I am pissed that my best friend in the world and love of my life lost the woman who shaped her into who she is today.
Unfortunately, all the anger in the world can’t undo what happened. More than that, she wouldn’t want us to be angry. You see, my mother-in-law was not your average woman.
She was a woman who made friends with everyone she’d meet and who liked people far more than what made sense.
She was a woman who, despite living in a culture and time where women often fade into the background and are told to be subservient to their fathers and husbands, taught her sons to respect women and treat them as equals. She taught her daughter to stand up for what she believed in and that anything was possible. Even marrying a poor gymnastics coach could lead to a successful life. But she didn’t just say it. She walked the walk and demanded respect from everyone she met and worked with. She was a LION in the corporate world that was ruled by men. I am sure she got the most out of every situation.
She was a woman who had a social life so active it would put college students to shame.
She was a woman who you would aspire to be, if you didn’t already know you could never attain that level of goodness without a divine intervention.
She was and is my mother-in-law, the amazing woman who gave me a wife far better than anyone deserves.
You know, it’s sort of a sitcom joke that every man gets annoyed by his mother-in-law. But what I wouldn’t give to have hugged mine just one time.
Cherish your family. You know that trip to visit them you’ve been putting off because it’s too expensive? Go. Book the ticket now, because I promise you, it’s not too much. There is no figure high enough that should ever keep you from your loved ones and life is far too short to take it for granted.
I was lucky enough to have been able to go on some pretty amazing trips with my family and her. We had a couple trips to Germany and Austria to see family and friends. To see my children walking hand in hand with OMI through the streets of Mayrhofen Austria. To see the entire family under a blanket as we were in a horse drawn sled through the Alps. I could not ask for more.
A few years ago we went on a Caribbean Cruise. Stephanie and I and the 2 kids. We decided it would be a great trip for Brigette because she had always been there for us and it was the least we could do to show our thanks. In one room was Stephanie and I and our son. The other room was our 14 year old Daughter and Brigette. The laughter coming from their room! The jokes about where our daughter would go if there was a scarf hanging from the door handle!
Nothing I could write could describe the type of person my mother-in-law was,
Rest in peace, and thank you for everything you’ve done. You truly left the world better than you found it. You taught me how not to be afraid of life and in the end how not to be afraid of death.
What is dying?
I am standing on the seashore.
A ship sails to the morning breeze and starts for the ocean.
She is an object and I stand watching her
Till at last she fades from the horizon,
And someone at my side says, “She is gone!” Gone where?
Gone from my sight, that is all;
She is just as large in the masts, hull and spars as she was when I saw her,
And just as able to bear her load of living freight to its destination.
The diminished size and total loss of sight is in me, not in her;
And just at the moment when someone at my side says, “She is gone”,
There are others who are watching her coming,
And other voices take up a glad shout,
“There she comes” – and that is dying.
I have spent this evening writing this, crying and smiling. I am glad I was able to say my good byes before I came to Iceland. As I sat on her bed and gave her a kiss on the cheek and said “I love you” knowing it would probably be for the last time. She took my hand, looked me in the eyes and said, “I love you too. Have a safe trip.”
Brigette, I love you. Have a safe trip.
Brigette was passionate about organ donation. Consider the following phrase without any religious overtones, “your body is but a vessel.” The implication is that the body is just a container for what is truly important – you! You cannot take it with you. Please consider organ donation as a way of honoring her and your opportunity to continue YOUR legacy.