I am proud to introduce a new column to Madame Deals! I think we all need a touch point a place we can go to be inspired. Karla is my children’s teacher, a good friend, and a person with a heart of gold. I hope that her words will inspire you to do more. We are only as good as the people we surround ourselves with. It is important to listen with your heart and proceed with your eyes open. Enjoy!
No More Grudges…
Yesterday my phone rang just as I was about to leave for a day of shopping and errand running. It was my mother-in-law so I decided to answer it. I have known this woman for nearly 24 years and only has it been in the past six months I would have considered answering the phone and not let the answering machine pick up.
When I first met my husband’s family way back in 1988 I was just 19 years old. I grew up on a poultry farm in rural Virginia attending church and practicing a protestant faith. My husband grew up in a military town in North Carolina to Jamaican parents, a Marine father and attended the Catholic Church. To say that our backgrounds were different would be an understatement, but we quickly decided to marry and carry on in our lives as we saw fit. Unfortunately, the road we chose was a bit difficult at times due to those differences and a lot of stubbornness…from all sides. For most of my married life I struggled with the in-laws. Looking back now I know that I played just as big a part in the “conflict” as they did, but nonetheless there was conflict. Flash forward 23 years to this past May; that is when my story really begins. My father in law passed away the year before and my mother-in-law moved in with her youngest daughter and her family. Shortly after his passing we began to notice little slips of her memory and would just brush it off as old age. Little by little it was becoming apparent that Grandma’s health was deteriorating. Still, I sat on the sidelines not really communicating with her. To be quite honest, I had avoided her for a long time.
In May of this year my husband received a call from his sister saying that his mother was pretty sick and that we should make a visit as soon to say our good-byes. I decided I would not make the trip at first but changed my mind at the last minute to support my husband and children. As we made our way on Memorial Day weekend we were certain that this would be our last trip. The Hospice nurse and the doctors said that Grandma’s time was near and nothing else could be done. We found her in her room, oxygen tank by her side, tired, weak and pale. My sister-in-law was happy to see me and shared that Grandma had been asking for me all day. As difficult as that was to believe I began to feel that this was going to be a life changing moment for us all. I found a spot beside her bed making sure that I was surrounded the others. Suddenly I realized that one by one they all had left the room and we were alone. With a lump in my throat and no idea what to say, I sat in the quiet of her room listening to the hissing of the oxygen hoping and praying that somebody, anybody would come in and save me from the situation. That did not happen. Instead what happened was a conversation about normal every day stuff. She thanked me for coming, asked about my children, my parents, job, and life in general. She shared with me that she knew she was dying and that she was okay with it. The room began to fill up with family members again and I thought for sure I was in the clear. We had our conversation and I was off the hook; my work there was done. WRONG!
The following day we went to see her and to say our good-byes. We had to return home and make plans to come back later in the week for her funeral. We found Grandma weaker than the day before and almost non-responsive. The Hospice nurse told us that it would be a matter of hours or a day at best and she would be gone. As we gathered around her bed to say good-bye my heart broke as I watched my husband sit on the edge of the bed and hold his tiny 80 pound 81 year old mother in his arms and share his last words with her. My sweet girl was next, holding her grandma’s hand, wiping the tears away and sharing her final thoughts. My son, awkward and shy hugged her and let her frail wrinkled hand fall away as he walked away tearful and sad. Once again I was left alone in the room with a heavy heart full of sadness and regret. I realized at that moment that I had wasted so much time and energy and for what? I could not even remember and all the sudden it did not matter.
I reached down and held her hand in mine and watched as she stared back at me and let the tears flow down her cheeks. She asked me to look after her son as I always have and to take care of myself and my children too. As I bent down to hug her she looked at me and said “I’m sorry”. Two words that I had waited for for many years had been uttered with sincerity and love; something I had not expected. In response I told her that I was sorry too and for the first in 23 years I told her I loved her and I meant it. I held her frail tiny body in my arms for a moment and walked away with an overwhelming feeling of peace. In my heart I knew that even though her time was short we were okay.
As the following week rolled around we received daily updates on her condition and was certain that she would pass and had even made plans at our jobs to be away to attend her funeral. That did not happen. About ten days later, yes ten days, my sister-in-law woke up to find Grandma standing at the kitchen counter reading the newspaper and eating grapes. Of course, we were thrilled but still not hopeful. In July my husband and I returned to North Carolina for his high school reunion and there she was in her pretty little dress, hair done neatly sitting in her chair happily waiting our arrival. Since our visit in July she has moved into an assisted living facility and is doing quite well. Her memory is a bit fuzzy, but otherwise she is well and just celebrated her 82nd birthday.
So back to my phone call. I pick up the phone and hear my sweet mother-in-law say “Happy Birthday!” Now my birthday is in ten days, but I do not correct I simply thank her and carry on in the conversation. She asks how everyone is and what my plans are for the day and then suddenly as if a switch was turned and her memory was clear again she quietly says “it’s not your birthday is it?” I tell her “no”, but that’s okay she’s the first to tell me and I am happy to talk to her. I am really happy to talk to her.
Is there someone in your life that you have held a grudge against for so long you do not remember why? Take time to examine the relationships you have in your life and ask yourself if it is really worth the time and energy to stay angry. For me, it took 23 years to realize how much I have wasted with my mother-in-law. I am thankful that we have been given the time we have now and while I struggle with regret I know that we are in a good place in our lives and that the past does not matter anymore.
Focus on what is really important in your life. Get rid of the negativity, anger and grudges. Life is so precious; focus on living each day to the fullest without regret. Letting go of grudges will probably always be a bit difficult for hard headed me, but I will try. I will cherish the time I have left with Grandma and know that each phone call is a bonus….even if it is not my birthday.