I had the best mother in law anyone could ever have. She never interfered, didn't judge others, and welcomed me into her family as if I was one of her own.
Even though she was so generous and kind, she always remarked how "blessed" she was to have her family. She would say "you're all so good". If you did the littlest thing for her, she thanked you profusely. When she started forgetting things and couldn't be left alone, she would rave the next day after a family member stayed with her overnight to anyone who came by "Graphic" the next day; "Can you believe how nice it was?"
She taught me a lot in the 26 years that I knew her. She taught me about patience and love. In her own dignified and kind way, she lived her life. But along the way, she made the world a better place.
Some may have taken her placid way as being passive and without power. Really, she was powerful and determined in all the ways that were important to her. Her religion and church was something she valued tremendously and this gave her much strength to face the tough stuff in life. She believed in God and she knew He would provide for her all that she needed. She wasn't afraid to pray and she once told me she prayed for me and all of her children every single day. I was wondering how I got through some of those tough spots!
When we were in Bermuda, I took her and my young daughter to a near by church for mass. We took the shuttle there but could not get one for the return trip to the resort. We walked around curved and dangerous roads to get to a place that we could catch a local bus. She wanted to go to church, she wasn't about to complain about nearly getting killed on the way back. She just acted like it was any ordinary day, probably not wanting me to feel bad or scared for how things were turning out. Always thinking of others.
I was surprised to learn that she had her own secret "stash" where she kept an emergency $20 at all times. I only learned this because my husband hit her up for something and she made him promise he would return it in case of any other emergency. She was practical that way. She always told us we have to live within our means. She told us she and dad always had a budget and stuck to it.
I tried to thank her for teaching my husband how to cook, bake, and do laundry among many other things over the years that I knew her. She just said it was "common sense" raising kids and that all you had to do was "do it".
She set the bar high.
My husband uses her gingerbread cookie recipe passed down from her mother, and makes the best cookies every year at Christmas. I try to envision how she had all of her children stand around and watch her make the dough, shapes, and bake them to perfection. I imagine she was perfectly calm and matter of fact about the whole thing.
Same thing with laundry, cooking, and caring for a family of 13. She didi it without complaint and if the baby pictures are any indication, she did it with joy and delight.
How did she get them to stand for a holiday picture, so perfectly dressed, ready for church? She proudly told me that every Easter, each child got brand new clothing-from the underwear to the hats and coats.
She told me about volunteering at the school library once all of her children were in school. She loved being a mother and she cared so deeply for each of her children.
She once shared some notes she saved that my husband made for her when he was 7 or 8 years old. Things like, "I like you", "I love you", You are pretty", "you are nice", etc. were written all over them and were signed "Chris". That has always warmed my heart.
The proof is in the pudding. The love that her children and grandchildren had for her is evidence of her devotion and incredible success as a mother. I strive to be more like her.
I loved her so much and I miss her already. I know she is in heaven and she is at peace. But I still can't help wishing we all had a little more time with her. She and dad always waved to us, with Taffy at her side (and others before her) when we drove off to return to Massachusetts. I hope she knows how much we always loved her.
Kelly, (the last Belthoff "outlaw") and grateful daughter in law