I’m so busy living life that I sometimes forget to write my blog. Today, though, is a slow, thoughtful day.
My beloved mother-in-law passed away this morning. My husband Jeff recently got back from saying a final goodbye to his mom, and it is such a blessing that he had that opportunity. My mother-in-law was in hospice after the discovery of late-stage colon cancer. At 90 years of age, Marilyn had led an especially colorful and productive life. Despite burying her first husband—and her oldest son—Marilyn traveled the world, engaged in adventure, found a second love, and recorded the birth of 19 great-grandchildren.
How do you measure a life? What makes life meaningful? Certainly living to a good age is a factor. Though, as Marilyn told us countless times, aging is not for sissies.
I think a good life is related to how much you are loved by those around you. To be loved, you have to have given love, been there for your family, and expressed your love verbally or physically. Marilyn won a high score in all those things.
I will cherish the times we spent together
both here and abroad. Countless hours being with the kids, teaching them games, giving presents that pushed them to grow (and that are now being enjoyed by the second generation), and traipsing with us to all manner of outings. Marilyn was always the first one on the roller coasters! And she always shared her blueberries.
Here are four lessons that Marilyn taught me:
Be a doer. I watched in awe as over the years she painted and wallpapered our kids’ rooms, played with them, helped with the laundry and the dishes, and generally stayed active on every visit. Actions convey love as powerfully as words.
Love unconditionally. Don’t be afraid to shower your grandkids with affection. And to be their advocate.
Travel to new places. See the world. Enjoy. Do it for yourself, but also share your new-found knowledge with the family.
When you have a task to do, if you can do it sitting down, sit down! Enough said.
Thankfully, Marilyn passed gently embraced by those who loved her. There are arrangements to make and things that must be done, but overall, despite the sadness that has shadowed us since her diagnosis, there will be closure and a chance to remember with love the things that made her special.
How different this whole experience is from dealing with my mom.
Even though she’s still with us, Alzheimer’s has robbed us of the mom I grew up with. I am both happy to see her when I visit and frustrated at the anger she continues to display. The last time I saw her, as I bent down to kiss her goodbye, she slapped me away.
I don’t know how long Mom will hover in this vacant life or exist in that liminal space where memory is lost and unforgiving. I will continue to be there, unsure of the impact my presence may or may not have. I pray I have the strength that my sisters-in-law have shown in accompanying their mothers to the next place.
Strangely, despite the loss of a parent or loved one, we still have to eat and take care of our needs. It feels sacrilegious to continue living in the presence of death, but there it is.
Suffice it to say that one of my comfort foods is yummy starchy gnocchi. I especially love it with creamy pesto cheese sauce. But if you need a good non-dairy gnocchi dish, this one is both colorful and flavorful.
Roasted Gnocchi with Onions, Tomatoes, and Peppers
1 package 500 gr / 12-17 oz gnocchi
1 red pepper, chopped
1½ cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1 red onion, sliced thin
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 sprig fresh rosemary, coarsely chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 450° F / 230° C. Place in a large bowl gnocchi, vegetables, oil, and spices and mix well. Spread on a large baking tray covered in baking paper. Roast for 10 minutes then stir, return to heat, and roast for another 10 minutes or until gnocchi begins to plump and brown.