Thursday, August 20, 2015
On one of our first extended family trips after Andrew and I were married, my mother-in-law and I didn't exactly see eye to eye. We were in Nashville visiting Andrew's sister and were all staying at the same hotel. Andrew got quite sick, so we went back to the room so he could rest and have some down time. Anne knocked on our door no less than four times to see if she could take care of him. No ma'am. No thank you. He was mine now, in sickness and in health, thank you very much.
And that's not the only time we have disagreed. Anne is my number one opponent in my fight against more "stuff." She finds it impossible to arrive for a visit without gifts for the kids, no matter how many times she has witnessed our overflowing playroom. Books? Thanks, Anne. More gadgets? Yep. Art supplies and toys and baby beds and stuffed animals (especially ones that she somehow still has from Happy Meals). Check.
But here's the thing--almost every disagreement I have with my mother-in-law is rooted in the fact that she loves too much. Too deeply. And she just can't help but express it. She loves Andrew so very well. Learning to let him cling to another woman must have been hard. And each time she stepped on my toes a bit, it wasn't because she didn't love me enough...it was only because she loved him too much. And her grandkids. Y'all. Anne was created to be Gigi. She is patient and playful, fun in a way only a grandmother can be. The kids adore her, justifiably so.
Yes, while mother-in-law horror stories abound, I got pretty lucky. Anne is the mother-in-law you call in the middle of the night when you have 5 month old twins and both parents get a stomach virus. She is the one who then makes a 3 hour road trip at 5:00 a.m., wrecks her car in the mountains on the way, then parks it at your house so that you can't see the damaged side because she doesn't want you to worry.
Now don't get me wrong--she is definitely not perfect, and she is not a push-over. That would be too boring for her. Instead, she balances her desire to please and serve with quite a bit of spunk, and makes you like her all the better for it.
I met Anne a little over 10 years ago. At the time, her son and I were fumbling our way through the beginning of a college relationship. A group of our friends stayed at Andrew's parents' home in Greenville for the Tennessee vs. South Carolina football game, and Anne was perfectly warm and welcoming to all of us. She says that she could tell that Andrew and I were more than friends. I so wanted her to like me. I had no idea that weekend that, 10 years later, she would be one of the people I cherish most in the world. That she would be a second mom to me in so many ways. That she would be someone I have cried to when my babies were sick and struggled through the uncertainties of motherhood with. That I would spend more than one night having a little too much wine with her, including one evening where I tried to convince her to go to Waffle House with me at 1:00 a.m. That she would be the one my little family turned to when we needed extra hands around. That she would become one of my people. My most beloved people. I didn't realize that weekend in 2004 that I was meeting the woman who would soon give me the greatest gift a mom ever gives another woman--the gift of her son, raised so incredibly well, cherished and taught by a mom in such a way that prepared him to excel as a husband and father.
We recently found out that Anne is sick--she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. We are not fooling ourselves. We know the road ahead for her, and for us, is long and windy and difficult and ugly. And speaking for myself, I am not praying so much for ease. Some things aren't realistic. As much as I hope for an easy recovery, as much as I pray for some miraculous healing, I pray more fervently for the grace to face the path ahead. For good days. For sweet moments. For pain-free time. For continued laughter and lightness. For inexplicable peace that comes only from our God. For more memories, big and small, as we travel together.
As a daughter, wife, mom, special-ed teacher, mother-in-law, Gigi and friend, Anne's whole life has been spent serving others. I pray that those who know and love her may now surround her and serve her well as she marches into this uncharted territory.