Two days ago the world lost a wonderful person.
That person just so happened to be Chris’s Mum, Joy.
I have, in the past, been known to refer to her as “my mother-in-law”, usually for simplicity’s sake. But she wasn’t my mother in law. Not least because Chris and I aren’t married, so the law had nothing to do with it. More than that though. She was nothing like how a Mother in law is supposed to be.
I have listened, over the years, to people talk of these creatures, sneering over spectacles at the women who dare to fall in love with their sons, full of unwanted advice and hidden criticism. Treating grown men like the five year olds they once were, and their wives and girlfriends like you might vermin during the plague.
Joy was nothing like that. Not even remotely. It’s like she read a book on “How to behave like the archetypal Mother-in-law” and disregarded every single word.
She made me feel a part of Christian’s family from the moment I first met her. Contrary to everything ever written about mother-in-laws, one of the first and most frequent things she told me was how good I was for her son, how happy I made him (and her), and how thankful she was for that.
When I had Toby, my first child and her first Grandson, she made it her business to pass absolutely no comment on anything I chose to do as new Mum. When I struggled she empathised, without burdening me with unwanted or unachievable advice. When we announced pregnancy number 2, and pregnancy number 2 take 2, and pregnancy number 3, she worried about how we would cope, reflecting on her own experiences of life with little ones, and yet was unwavering with her support and enthusiastic congratulations.
When she told me 6 weeks ago that she had been told by her doctors that nothing more could be done, it was without a hint of self pity, her only concern was how and when she would relay that information to her children. And when I saw her 2 days ago, the only word she said to me was “thank you”, opening her eyes just long enough to look at me as she said it, before drifting back to sleep.
Having only known her for 9 years, I might not be best qualified to talk about who she was, and what she liked. But I can tell you definitively the kind of person she was. She was clever and she was kind. She was unwavering in her beliefs but tolerant of others and theirs. She was a woman who wished she had travelled, and written a book, and dyed her hair blue, but was without regret or bitterness about the life she had lived instead.
We, all of us, live hoping to change the world and assume that can be done only in the grandest of ways. We will build the tallest tower, amass the greatest fortune, write the wittiest play or cure the deadliest disease. Perhaps some of us will be successful in our endeavours, but most of us will face hurdles, failure and disappointment along the way.
I believe Joy did change the world. I believe her personality and temperament are a lesson to us all. I believe she produced three beautiful and talented children, one of whom is the man I love, and through her, exist two, soon to be three grandchildren. And I believe the memory of her will live on, in our memories and their hearts.
The pain of her passing is ours to bear, but the joy of her existence is also ours to celebrate.
Rest in peace Joy.
And thank you.