Remembrance of My Mother-in-Law

I am a blessed man, in many ways. You hear many horror stories and jokes about the relationship between a man and his Mother-in-law, but I myself have been blessed. I always felt love from her and I hope she felt the same from me.

My Mother-in-law, Sue James, passed away last month and to be honest, I didn’t realize just how much I would miss her. This is not intended to be a eulogy but to understand our lesson from her life it is important to share some things about her. Each member of our family had a unique and equally loving relationship with Sue. My kids always jokingly tried to get her to say that this one or that were really Grandma’s favorite. One Christmas she pulled one over on them, getting them each an ornament with something to the affect of “Grandma’s favorite” on each one. I always liked it when she walked through the door at our house, she loved family and it shone on her face and in her hugs.

She had attended several churches in her life and I gather somewhat sporadically. I believe she most often identified herself with the Episcopal Church. I always knew her as a person with faith, a spiritual person. Late in life, she joined the Catholic Church and my impression was she seemed to have found what she was looking for. I clearly remember when my wife told me that her Mother was thinking about joining the Catholic Church and decided to go to RCIA classes. I was quite surprised and so was my wife. Neither of us had any idea she was thinking about that. My Mother-in-law said “I’m surprised you didn’t see it coming”. In time and with my Father-in-law’s support she joined the Church and she continued to grow and live her faith.

I think my Mother-in-law saw herself as ordinary. Not one to seek the limelight. To me she was compassionate and understanding, to me she was extraordinary. In her ordinary way she joined an informal Saturday morning Bible study with a group of ladies. To them, she was extraordinary. One of the ladies told me that she was often quiet and attentive during Bible study, but when she said something it was always something quite meaningful. She was a volunteer for CareNet in Mt. Vernon, a pregnancy decision organization. I don’t know how many lives she touched through that work but I do know to those she worked with, she was extraordinary. I don’t know how many lives she saved through her work but should they ever come to know their story they will see there was someone extraordinary who cared enough to help. She dearly loved and was proud of each of her own children. To my wife she truly was her best friend and confidant. To her children, she was extraordinary. She spent her life with my Father-in-law loving and caring for him, even nursing him through a bout of cancer. To him, she was extraordinary.

So what do we as Knights learn from her life? Though she saw herself as ordinary, she really had no idea how much impact she had in this world. When she passed, my Father-in-law was overwhelmed by the number of people who not only offered condolences but wanted to help him in this time of grief. They cared about him, even if they had not met him because of the impact that Sue had on their lives. I remember being at the funeral home paying my respects, and in that moment it was crystal clear to me that the being of a person in total is far, far greater than the sum of their remains. After the funeral when my Father-in-law was expressing his gratitude to one of the women in Sue’s Bible study group for all the support and love he had received, the lady replied simply “that’s who we are”. I think that sums up how Sue lived. Through her “ordinary” caring and compassion she served her fellow human being, giving through her life to make the lives of others better. I contend that is the essence of God’s Word on how we should live our lives.

Through her faith she knew love, by that love she felt peace, and in that peace she found happiness. This is there for each one of us. By living and growing our faith ordinarily we are uniquely extraordinary. Today I pray for all those who have lost a loved one and a special prayer for those battling cancer and their families.

Pat Rosmarin, Lecturer