Last week my lovely mum-in-law, Barbara, passed away. Not a tragedy, she was 85 and had had a good life. But incredibly sad for her family. I count myself lucky to have found my way into that family and along with Zoe, my daughter, to have been welcomed with open arms and unconditional love.
I first met Barbara and her husband Denis in October 2003, about a month after I met Nigel. Right from the start they were so kind and lovely to me, although Mum asked me so many questions that it felt a bit like I was on Mastermind! I guess that she needed to ensure that I was worthy of her “baby boy”, (well over 6 foot and somewhat well built)!
My favourite memory of Barbara comes a couple of months later. On a family trip to Centre Parcs over Christmas, to which Zoe and I were late additions. Following a very bad meal in one of the restaurants we were served desserts, and Mum’s choice of Chocolate Fudge cake came out and was frozen! She plunged her fork into the offending item and marched across to the manager of the outlet, to whom we had previously complained, and waved the cake in front of his nose protesting loudly! She could be a formidable woman, but with a wicked impish sense of humour.
Dad died about 4 years ago, and after a few lonely and miserable months in the home they had shared together Mum decided that she would prefer to live somewhere more secure and with care available. She walked into a lovely care home in Hemel Hempstead and declared that this was where she wanted to be, and how soon could she move in?
She was very content there and made the best of everything going on in the home. She made friends, terrorized the catering manager into submission and generally enjoyed her life. My lovely sister-in-law, Gilly visited her almost every day and the rest of the family visited as often as they could – we are rather spread across the country. Her health deteriorated gradually but she was so well cared for, we of course assumed she would go on forever.
Nigel and I went to visit her last Saturday. She looked well and was full of news and gossip about everything in the home. We talked about the imminent birth of her 5th great grandchild and her grandaughter’s wedding in April, but she was very philosophical, talking about Dad and how much she missed him, and wondering what “it was all about”. I cannot say that I knew it would be the last time that we would see her, but Nigel and I did have a conversation about how it seemed as though she had had enough.
So when we got the news on the following Tuesday it was not the biggest surprise to us.
Death, even when expected, is always a shock, and leaves a person-shaped hole in all our lives. All week that hole has filled with memories of Barbara’s life and the effect she has had on us all. Her 4 children and their partners, her niece, 7 grandchildren, and 4 great-grandchildren will mourn her for a long time, and we will share stories whenever we get together for family events. She and Denis were so central to our gatherings I know that we will feel their presence all the time. There will be a lot of laughter whenever we remember them.
For me, I am grateful that they came into my life, at a time when Zoe and I were a little lost. For those Star Trek fans out there, my husband says we were “assimilated”! It was a painless experience.
The next couple of weeks will be challenging, but in a strange kind of way I am looking forward to the funeral. A chance to say goodbye with all the family, and to celebrate their parents.
Rest in peace lovely lady.