My husband and I recently moved from the community we lived in for 14 years and where we raised our boys. My mom was diagnosed with dementia in January of 2020. I needed to get closer to my parents to help. In the process, we moved further away from my husband's parents. They are a few years younger than my parents, and, although their health hasn't been great, it seemed to be better than my parent's.
Two weeks and three days ago, my mother-in-law woke up not feeling herself. Later in the day when she hadn't improved, my father-in-law finally convinced her that they should go to the ER and get things checked out to be on the safe side. My mother-in-law survived breast cancer several years ago, and all of her doctors that she trusted were an hour and a half away from their home. They packed a few things in case the doctors wanted to keep her and headed west. While they were on their way, my husband called them to say hello. They informed him that they were headed to the ER. His mom laughed and joked with him, sounding like her usual self, assuring him it wasn't anything to worry about. She made a few calls to a couple of her clients. At age 72, she was still working full time and loved every minute of it.
When they were almost to a small town about 30 minutes away from the ER, my mother-in-law told my father-in-law they needed to stop. When he asked what she needed, she told him she needed an ambulance. They met the ambulance in the town and it proceeded to take her the rest of the way. She coded four times before they got there and arrived at the hospital unconscious. They put her in the intensive care unit.
After talking to my father-in-law, my husband thought it was best that he travel there because his dad couldn't explain to him if it was serious or not. He needed to talk with the doctors and see his mom himself. He left in the early evening and drove two hours north. I told him that I would take care of the loose ends and head that way in the morning. His mom was still unconscious when he got there. The doctors told him that she had a series of heart attacks, and she was stable but critical. He called his brother and sister and told them what he knew. Both of them decided to come but couldn't get there until the next morning because they live so far away. In the middle of the night, she had another heart attack - a big one. The next morning after they had run several tests, the doctors explained to my husband and his dad that she had no brain function and the ventilator was the only thing keeping her alive. As I was driving down the highway, my husband called me to tell me his mom was pronounced dead at 10:03 AM. I pulled over on the side of the road and cried.
I have heard horror stories from others about their relationships with their in-laws. I never understood it. Now I realize how lucky I was to have the mother-in-law I did. She was tough, but she was kind. She was independent and liked to keep to herself, but she was always there when I needed her. She fiercely loved my boys and supported them in everything they did but wouldn't think twice about busting butts if they needed it. She was strikingly beautiful and the most intelligent woman I have ever met. When I married my husband 22 years ago, I got a second mom. I love her, and there is a void in my heart. It happened so quick, and this is just something you're never ready for.
For some reason I can't nail down, the grief gets worse for me as I get older. I have lost grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends that I have been very close to. The grief was there but it wasn't as intense as it is now. I am not sure if it is my age or the situation we have all dealt with for the past year and a half.
The last time I saw my mother-in-law in person was in October. COVID hit us hard in the last part of 2020 and we weren't able to see family on Thanksgiving or Christmas holidays. It makes me furious! This damned pandemic has ruined so many lives. I feel guilty! We should have taken some time to go spend the weekend with them in February. The emotions are like a roller coaster, grief to anger to guilt then back to grief.
The other night, I couldn't sleep. I felt the need to talk to her so I just started. I could hear her voice so clearly as she responded to me. I told her I missed her. She told me that she missed me, too. I told her I was sorry that I didn't get to see her before she left. She told me that neither of us could have helped it. I told her that I felt guilty that we moved and weren't there to take care of them. She told me that I did what I thought was right and it was right. I told her I was so happy that my husband got to have lunch with her the week before it happened. She told me that they sat and talked for two hours about anything and everything. I told her I was worried about my father-in-law and how he was going to make it without her. She told me that we needed to remind him about all that he has to live for. I told her how beautiful and perfect the service was. She said that the flowers were beautiful, and she loved the sound of the birds singing and the train rolling past. I told her that the messages from so many that loved and admired her just reinforced what I difference she made in the lives of others. She told me to never wait to send that love and admiration to someone after they die; do it when they are alive. I told her that it broke my heart that she wasn't going to be at my son's college graduation or my niece's wedding in July. She told me we might not see her, but she would be there. I told her thank you for being the best mother-in-law anyone could ask for. She told me to remember that when I become one and do the same.
I fell asleep talking to my mother-in-law and that was the best night of sleep I had gotten in weeks.
In loving memory of Vicki Leigh Watson, the Greatest Mother-In-Law Ever
February 15th, 1949 - March 31st, 2021