The Secret Garden: A Tribute to my mother-in-law Elaine Grant/ aka Mom

If you only plan to read one tribute to this woman, STOP reading this and go to my wife’s blog here.

Today I feel her presence. Yesterday I was unexpectedly and somewhat rudely reminded that it was our 9th anniversary as Facebook friends. I watched some pictures of us roll by and she’s been on my mind and in my heart even more than usual ever since. So today I felt the need to come over to the hospital where she lived for the past eight or so years. There is an outdoor kind of lounge/garden area that I grew to love when I would come and visit her. It seems that almost no one knows about this place. It’s beautiful and barely anyone ever visits it. I view it now as my own personal Secret Garden. This is the first time I’ve come here on my own since she has passed. I feel close to her in this place.

Beautiful memories of her are flooding in as I sit here.

In Christian scripture, there is a well-known story about two sisters, Mary and Martha, hosting Jesus for a meal. Martha is the person who frets, scurrying around to make sure that everything is perfect for the visit. Mary just kind of chills out, puts her feet up, and enjoys Jesus presence. I think one reason this story is there so that we can ask ourselves which one of them we are; Mary or Martha? I’m pretty sure the point is that we are some of both at different times in different places.

But as far as I can remember, Elaine was always Mary. She didn’t worry too terribly much about the condition of the room or the house for a visit. She seemed entirely focused on the visit itself.
I don’t remember anything about any food I ate in her presence. I’m sure it was decent enough. Mostly I remember sitting at a meal for very long periods of time and watching her enjoy every single morsel of what she ate and every word of what she heard from her guests. As one of those people, I was always made to feel special when I was with her.

I remember her face. Her smile which lit up her room. Her eyes that shone bright even in the midst of pain and struggle. Her voice which was warm and inviting and true. Yes, it is her face that showed love and grace that I will remember most.

I remember 20 valentines days ago buying her lunch at her workplace. Over The meal, again I don’t have a clue what we ate, I asked her if she was cool with me asking her daughter to marry me. She smiled, gave me a hug, and was thrilled. I felt special to have had the privilege of being warmly invited into the family.

I am acutely aware of that not everyone has comforting, warm memories of their mom. I realize how absolutely privileged I am to have two ‘Moms’. My blood mother is still with us and irreplaceable. She raised me and loves me unconditionally. I love her too.
Close to 20 years ago Elaine became my mother-in-law. Soon afterwards, I began to call her mom. She loved me. I felt it deeply.
And I loved her.

She taught me so much.
About faith.
About Hope.
About love.

Most of all she taught me how to get sick with grace. One thing we had in common was our ongoing significant health issues. The difference between us on that front was that she never complained. She took it as it came. She trusted God in the midst of it all and her faith never ever wavered. Everybody who knew her, or cared for her in the healthcare profession, could see a woman of deep trust and faith.

Even though she is gone now in body (and I am thankful for her that she is finally free from pain), she lives on in my mind and heart as she offers me a daily challenge to live with grace no matter how difficult life becomes.

I just hope I can live up even a tiny bit to her example and challenge.

I will always miss and love you mom.
But you’ll always be with me.

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