Tuesday, September 24, 2013

“There’s no place like home.”

It seems that many of my blogs have dealt with death. I have no fascination with writing about that topic, but when someone I love passes from this life to the next, it causes me to put all of my every day, mundane life issues into a greater perspective. Facing the idea of death challenges me to re-prioritize.

On September 18th my beloved mother-in-law, Dorothy Bowyer, left this earth. I should have been ready, or at least not surprised—but I wasn’t. Many emotions have welled up within me in the past few days, but probably the strongest one has been a simple sadness.

Dorothy (I called her Mom) loved me from the first moment she laid eyes on me. We drove to Houston one Spring Break to “meet the parents” and announce our engagement, arriving around midnight and waking them from a sound sleep. They had known we were arriving late, but they were not aware that the dynamic of their family was about to change. I still remember walking into their home, half asleep myself, and meeting them for the first time. We all sat in the living room and talked for a while, and they were so loving and welcoming to me. We have all heard horror stories about in-laws (and many have lived those stories first-hand!), but I could not have asked for sweeter people to welcome me into their family.

From that day forward, Dorothy treated me as her very own. I came to think of her as my mother, and through the years we have shared many warm conversations, moments of laughter, intimate disclosures from our own hearts, and fears and insecurities that nipped at our heels. We have read one another’s books, shared spiritual insights, encouraged and challenged each other. There have been moments filled with both laughter and tears. She endured the deaths of many she loved, including her husband, only daughter, a grandson, her mother, and a brother during the years I have been in the family, and I shared in her grief.

Dorothy was a fun, generous, loving grandmother to our two children. They have precious memories of her and they, too, will miss her deeply.

There is more than one kind of death. The death of a marriage brings consequences to everyone involved. One of the very painful parts of the end of my marriage to Dorothy’s son was the consequence to his family. Mom still loved me, always accepted me, and continued to keep in touch with me. I am eternally grateful for her gracious willingness to keep me in her heart, even if I was not technically in her family. Although our divorce caused her immense pain and sadness, she continued to call me daughter.

I am blessed with forty-four years of memories—valuable jewels that I treasure. With instant recollection, I can picture: the times we came to visit and how she worked to create little homey touches to the guest bedroom to make our stay more pleasant . . . how she watched and listened to learn about things I liked so she could surprise me with a much-wanted gift at Christmas . . . the delighted lift of her voice when I called on the phone . . . the long, newsy letters she wrote. I remember when she drove with us to Austin one cold, rainy January and spent the day helping me find an apartment on short notice while Gerry started his new job. Or the time she came after Nicole was born to help take care of all of us until I got on my feet. She was on hand when our children graduated from college, she welcomed their future spouses when we gathered for Thanksgiving, and she arrived to give her blessing when they married. For all the important life events, she was there, lending support and loving us as good mothers do. 

We will all miss her terribly. But Dorothy, like the other Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, understood that “there’s no place like home.” For Dorothy, this is only the beginning, not the end, because guess what—we have a big family reunion scheduled with her some sweet day! And it won’t be in Kansas. I'm booking my flight to be there, and inviting everyone who loved Dorothy to be there too.

Dorothy is the second to the left, next to my dad. This was our family photo taken at Nicole and Max's wedding.