You often hear horror stories about mother-in-law's who are mean, judgmental, cause issues with the marriage, etc.
I never had to worry about that. From the day I met Sandy Burr, I knew we weren't just going to be related through marriage - we were going to be friends.
Someone recently said to me "it seems you were very close to your MIL... how come?" And I realize I couldn't exactly answer that question. Was it because she didn't fit that "stereotype" of a monster-in-law? Maybe... but it was more than that. I felt comfortable talking to her about anything; we laughed and joked. The simple fact that for so long she was the "only woman" in the lives of her son and husband could have made it very uncomfortable for me; but instead she viewed it as a "comrade in arms" - now two of us could gang up on those guys instead of being on the receiving end of their teasing.
When Wes and I got engaged, I wanted to make sure that both moms felt included in the planning. It wasn't easy, since Sandy and my own mother each lived 2 hours away, but I made sure to include them. Talked about the types of cake, shared ideas on our theme, our colors, what we wanted for toasting glasses or cake toppers, what I was going to wear / use from my own parents wedding (like the tiara from my mothers veil and the cake topper they had)... Sandy was as interested and excited about the planning as my mother was and that made me happy. I remember the day we went to look at toasting glasses and I couldn't decide between the Celtic knot champagne glasses or the Scottish Quaich (a single cup/bowl with handles that was shared between the married couple). Sandy made me leave the store while she made a purchase... and came out with both. When I cracked a joke at my father-in-law's expense while they were ordering the tuxes ("I'm a "Senior"" (explaining to the woman his name was the same as Wes')... I responded with "You certainly are."), she laughed the hardest.
The summer before we were married, I ended up in the hospital twice for my esophageal issues. My folks made plans to come down and stay for a few days so they could spend time with me there and comfort / keep my mind occupied. But Sandy and Wes Burr came over as well. That meant a lot to me. When Wes couldn't take me to an appointment down in Baltimore, his folks drove up to take me down to the appointment, then back home and Sandy helped take care of me that day, even declaring at one point that I was not a very patient patient and "reprimanding" me to take it easy while I was recovering.
We had the same taste in books and music and TV shows.
When I was out in Pittsburgh and miserable out there by myself, Sandy was one of the people I called when I was feeling particularly down and frustrated. She helped get us back on our feet financially, so I could come back home with her son and not have to worry about things.
And then the first cancer came. I knew (possibly even before her son) that she was going for some testing. I didn't know at first what it was for, but it didn't take me long to figure out. And through her treatments and hair loss and numerous appointments I tried to be there for her as best I could, joking and helping keep a smile on her face. She was one tough woman and when the treatment showed to be working we breathed a collective sigh of relief.
And she cheered us through each infertility treatment... supporting me through each failure and each successive attempt. And when we finally succeeded, she smiles and cried with the rest of us.
Then the second cancer came. I remember the day we found out, Wes and I were both in tears, wondering if she would even see her granddaughter born. The last months of my pregnancy were tough on me, but Sandy still called me at least once a week to see how I was doing, how the baby was doing... all the while going through her own treatments. And I held out hope that not only would see Morgan born, but she'd be around for a long time to watch her grow up.
And in December... she was there with the rest of the family to welcome her first granddaughter and hold her shortly after her birth.
Morgan seemed to grow leaps and bounds and all her little outfits were grown out of almost as soon as we got them. So during one visit Sandy decided we were all going to Babies R Us and buying new clothes. Wes and his dad wandered off with the baby and Sandy and I started picking out clothes. Morgan was only about two or three months old at the time, and Sandy was so excited she wanted to go over to the toy section next. I laughed and said we didn't need to do that, since Morgan wasn't really playing with toys just yet and we had plenty of time to spoil her with new toys.
Unfortunately, no long thereafter we realized the treatments did not work. The tumor was larger and inoperable. My biggest regret right now is the fact that I didn't let her go and buy the store out of all their toys like she wanted.
It's weird how one's mind focuses in on something so insignificant as "baby toys" and holds onto that as their biggest regret.
But the truth is, it's not even about the toys. It's everything - Sandy won't see her first birthday, her first recital, her first day of school, first dance........ the list goes on.
If you've read any of my blog, you know basically how I feel about Life and Death - the Afterlife and Rebirth/Reincarnation. So... I know Sandy will never truly leave us. And, in some way, she won't miss all these things. But sometimes the concept of the "incorporeal" and the "guardian angels" doesn't cut it for me. I wanted Morgan to grow up knowing all of her grandparents - something I did not get a chance to do. I wanted her to be excited about going to see Grandma Sandy, with whom she could do no wrong and be spoiled rotten.
The day after Sandy's passing, we returned from their home (which felt strangely empty without here there in the kitchen, telling me stories about the broken fork or how her grandmother made this or that from scratch) and I went about my evening routine of putting Morgan to bed. She was particularly restless and kept pulling away while I was nursing, sitting straight up in my lap to look at a corner of the nursery, wave and "talk". I had to laugh. I knew Grandma Sandy was there, waving and smiling and distracting my baby just so that she could say "hi."
My heart is heavy with missing her. And I know I can never do justice to her memory. But I'm going to try my best, because she deserves that and more.