Monday, April 16, 2012


Dave's Mom died in April, '04. I had known her for 19 years. Mostly, our relationship was filled with struggles for many different reasons, at many different times.

Marilyn had serious physical problems. Rheumatoid Arthritis when she was in her 30s, obviously long before I'd known her. Because o
f the R.A., in the late 1980s, she lost bone strength and structure. Her neck weakened and was forced to be braced. Then, an elbow broke, and, at first, was replaced. The bones refused to accept another "insert", and, in a short time, she had no elbow ... just an unusable arm, flopping to her side or kept in a sling. About the same time, walking stopped and she lived in her wheelchair. And on and on.

For a
number of years, she didn't like me. She most certainly didn't accept me. Why? She considered her son, Dave, the family "Golden Boy", and had much hope that he would marry a lovely, godly, brilliant woman who had parents that were in Lutheran ministry. [Believe me, I didn't make that up. Dave mentioned this.] Dave was very smart, a pianist/organist, an Air Force officer, and servant-hearted. She loved him dearly.

Dave rarely made quick decisions and rarely stepped outside his Mom's "normal" viewpo
int and expectation. But suddenly he made a HUGE, f-a-s-t, abnormal decision and it caused extreme responses. What was it?

It was "Me". Dave was 25, single. I was 39, divorced, had 2 kids [my son pushing towards and my daughter in "teens"], and struggling financially, just to meet basic needs -- rent, food, bus fare.

God put Dave and I together suddenly -- May 19th, 1985 -- causing both of us to be overwhelmed with joy [and, sometimes fear] towards each other and the Lord; we knew it was His gift, but neither of us would ever have guessed this would happen, and happen so quickly.

We were engaged in 10 days. We didn't tell his family [or others, except our pastor] until 6 weeks had passed, to keep them from wondering What in the heck happened?. or ..
Had this divorced woman tricked him into a wedding so she'd have enough money to feed and care for her kids and she could quit work?

We married in 4 months, September 21, 1985. His Mom came to t
he wedding from St. Paul, MN, to Omaha. Dave's brother, Kip, brought her. They arrived right before the wedding and left right after, a 7-hour drive each way; no hanging out or being involved. The next weekend, on our way back from our honeymoon in northern Minnesota, she organized a very nice reception for us in St. Paul, and the people were very welcoming. And I thought, "Whew. Gonna be OK."

Oh, well...

For the next stretch, when we visited St. Paul, two or three times a year, we came home "unattached" for a few days. When up there, Marilyn always took Dave aside and pointed out to him where my behavior needed to change, where I wasn't good for him. He didn't want to disrespect her, so he refused to argue with her. Finally, he told her that he didn't want to hear anything negative about me; I was his wife and he was the one that should talk to me if HE saw problems. [He rarely has; nice guy!] She stopped, verbally; she still didn't like to see me, and that was obvious.

We'd been married about 6 years when she had a stroke. Nearly immediately, there was a huge family auction, because she and Dave's step-dad needed to purchase a different house so it would be easier for her to move around. Dave and I went up to attend the auction and help as we could.

I was in the kitchen washing a few of the glasses and snack dishes. Marilyn's stroke had occurred a couple weeks earlier and was out of the hospital that Saturday for this event; she would be taken back to the hospital that evening. In the meantime, she was sitting in the kitchen, a chair by the table, with the back pressed against the wall. She was behind me. I was washing dishes, running water, opening and closing cupboard doors; overall, it was a bit noisy.

Then I heard her voice from behind me. I turned off the water, stopped what I was doing, and faced her. I asked her what she had said, and she mumbled something I couldn't quite understand. So, I leaned closer to her and asked again what she had said. She had an intense look on her face and tried, and tried again ... and she changed my life.


I never [ever] would have anticipated that. It changed my heart... immediately. I just knelt next to her to give her a hug.

I was approved. I was accepted. I could never have imagined that it would happen. My heart rejoiced.

Her sicknesses increased. Her mental issues became more and more difficult. She focused back on Dave much more than wanting me, but that just fit into the illnesses... didn't have anything truly to do with her heart. Sometimes, when we visited, she asked Dave and I to pray for her. That seemed to be our main healed relationship. Also, when we were missionaries in Uganda, she truly had a heart of support for us. She blessed us with finances monthly, and we definitely needed that help.

In April, 2004, after a morning emergency call from Kip, we were driving north to meet family at the hospital. A couple hours south of St. Paul, Kip called and told us that she had died. We stayed several days until after the funeral... and Dave played piano, as a "gift" for her and the family.

Not one time did either of us shed a tear after her death. WHY? She is in heaven, she is healthy, she is finally living with her Lord. She is not filled with sorrow. How could we not simply be relieved with and for her?

But, that moment, washing dishes in her kitchen in 1991, being accepted, being approved, was a rejoicing time for me ... and I'm looking forward to seeing her. And I'm especially looking forward to a really.. nice.. hug time.
I asked Dave to read this before I posted it, so he could say whether it was correct or I should make changes. He said it was fine.
Visit Peter Pollock's Word Carnival... My joy? "Approved".


Anonymous said...

What a precious tribute to a mother-in-law. I never felt like I was "approved" by mine. We got along fine, but I always felt like the guest and never the daughter-in-law. I loved her and admired her. She was a super prayer warrior. I am so glad to see your blog about your mother-in-law. She raised a fabulous son!


Alise said...

Oh, I love this! I am so lucky that I have always been liked by my mother-in-law. I'm so glad that you got that affirmation from her.

A beautiful tribute. Thank you so much for sharing this today!

HisFireFly said...

You are a wonderful storyteller, words that move, words that heal, words that glorify!

Thank you!

S. Etole said...

A few words can be such gift.

Amanda Stephan said...

Wonderful - thank you for sharing your heart with us.

Kip said...

My Dearest Sister and Brother,
Thank you for sharing this.

I'm saddened beyond words that Mom never told me how she felt about the beginning or your relationship, but then again, that may have been a blessing. The only thing she ever said, once only, was that Joanne was older than Dave and she didn't understand this.

When you were in Uganda, I wrote the checks she couldn't because of her stroke. It frustrated her that she couldn't sign her own name to her gifts to you. You both were constantly in her heart and prayers. We talked about your time in Africa, always wondering how you were and what you were experiencing.

I guess our side of the family didn't learn well how to wear our hearts on our sleeves. I can tell you both, together, you were Loved by Mom.

Your brother, Kip

A Joyful Noise said...

Found you today at the One Word Carnival.
I truely am amazed at your stories. What a joy to hear those words from your mother-in-law. My mother in law and I got along very well, because she did everthing I told her to do. :-) I get along with our sons-in-laws, but our present daughter-in-law believes I am too bossy. Probably she is right. :-)

Gayle said...

I enjoyed this story because I too had deep struggles with my mother-in-law. Mine were not resolved really on this earth. The pain of rejection was intense and one thing I have promised myself is NEVER to do that to someone who marries into the family again. I have been challenged with that at times, there is family I would not have picked for my brother and my mom's second husband after dad died. But I remember the sting of her rejection and even though I have since released her and forgiven her, I don't forget the pain and have striven to never treat someone like I was treated. Sometimes what we learn from someone is what we don't want to be or do...
I am so glad she blessed you in the end.