It was almost exactly the same time last week that I received a call from my husband instructing me to meet him at the emergency room. His mother had become unresponsive at home and they had already resuscitated her once.
The next twelve hours were a roller coaster ride of emotions, decisions and tough phone conversations. By that evening, our beloved Mimi had passed from this life and was resting in the arms of the Lord.
The death of a loved one is never easy, even when you are comforted by God’s promises. There is a separation and a void. We will never think of Christmas the same without Mimi’s stockings or attend the Oklahoma City Arts Festival without being reminded of the many times we watched her dance with her tap class.
The evening after her passing, I sat down to write down a few thoughts for my father-in-law. I hope you don’t mind me sharing them with you.
As an adult, I’ve encountered many women who tell me stories about their mother-in-laws—stories about wanting control, vying for attention and spreading horrible lies. I could never quite relate, because my relationship with Betty was so profoundly different. She was not just my mother-in-law. She was my mother-in-love—a mom that was given to me as a love gift when I entered the King family.
For 22 years, I’ve had the privilege of having a woman treat me as her own and accepting me for who I am. I’ll never forget her making me a special silk drawstring bag for my wedding shoes or for giving me a really goofy t-shirt and visor for my honeymoon so I wouldn’t get sunburned. While it definitely wasn’t my “style”, I felt obligated to wear it as a sign of support for my new husband. As I wore the gear on a snorkeling trip, Vic promptly asked, “Where did you get that?” and instructed me to never wear it again!
Betty was the consummate peacemaker. She hesitated to make decisions, only because she wanted others to get their way. That was exactly her—always thinking about the other person and not herself. She was frugal, not only because Skipper probably forced it on her, but mainly because she wanted to bless someone else.
Betty was a wonderful wife, mother and Mimi. She was always loyal and a helpmate in every situation. She raised three wonderful children and I just happen to be married to a son who exhibits a lot of her same qualities. Because we lived in the same city, my children had the rare opportunity to spend a lot of time with Mimi. How many women have two grandmothers fighting over babysitting time? And while she never quite got the rules of soccer, she sat through many games just because she didn’t want to miss seeing anything. She’s sat through recitals, sports games and church programs—not because she didn’t have anything else to do—but because she was just a proud Mimi.
Organization would definitely not describe Betty! I spent one whole Mother’s Day afternoon trying to rearrange the cabinets in the dining room only to discover they were worse a month later. That’s because she saved everything and wanted to spend her time on relationships and not on whether things were put away. There were countless meals that I was denied access to the dishwasher or the putting away of dishes. She always wanted us to “relax and visit” while she would putter around washing every dish by hand. Honestly, she probably didn’t want us in there because. heaven forbid. we would throw away leftover food, a piece of foil or plastic wrap—you know those things can always be used again.
Christmas at the Kings was always a highlight with Betty. She cherished having her grandchildren there and she would insist on everyone wearing a Santa hat while presents were distributed. Our favorite part of Christmas was discovering what Mimi had stashed in the stockings. There were always interesting surprises—including toilet seat covers, breath drops and the ever-needed magnet notepad for our refrigerator. And it wasn’t just Christmas! Mimi always had a goody bag for Valentine’s, Halloween and Easter! It was her simple way of saying, “I spent time thinking about you.”
I did not come from a family that knew much about dancing, so seeing Betty tap dance was a new experience for this Baptist girl who has no moves. Each time I would take the kids by the dance studio to see Mimi, we were entertained by the latest tap class. Mimi was always so proud of her dancing and we looked forward each year to seeing her smile from ear to ear at the Arts Festival. For someone who didn’t like to draw attention to herself, she quite enjoyed being an entertainer! Her dance friends became our friends and I can just imagine her dancing in heaven now.
Even in the past few months, I never once heard Betty complain about treatments or wonder why God allowed cancer to consume her body. She was brave. She was positive. And she had confidence in her eternity.
So while other women may complain about their mother-in-laws, I will forever be grateful for mine. I am the one whose life has been blessed because of her life and I can only pray that I have learned from her example.
If you have a mother-in-law who is living, I hope you’ll take time to think of her positive qualities today. Don’t miss an opportunity to tell her she is loved. You’ll be grateful you did.