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Eulogy: Knowing My Mother-in-Law June 23, 2005

Posted by TimTheFoolMan in Love, Parenting/Children.
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Below is the actual text of the eulogy that I gave for my mother-in-law in the Summer of 2005.

There’s an old joke about mother-in-laws that goes like this: “My mother-in-law is an angel… she’s always up in the air and harping about something.” I’m not certain if mine told me this joke, but if she did, nobody that knew her would be surprised.

Around this room are many people who knew my mother-in-law, and from a variety of contexts. You may have known her from church, which is not surprising, since above all else, she was a committed Christian, having taught children and adults in Bible study for most of her adult life.

You may have known her from work, where she was a bookkeeper and accountant noted for saying, “If you write ‘em down right, and you add ‘em up right, they come out right… every time.”

Or, you may have known her by way of her children, or by way of her husband. This is also not surprising, since God came first, with family coming in a close second (followed very closely by Tom Landry, former coach of the Dallas Cowboys).

Or, you might have known her because you are one of her children (four) or grandchildren (eight), or great-grandchildren (one). You can locate these people easily, as the aroma from their lifelong spoiling is quite obvious.

However, four people in this room knew her in a different way. For the four of us, she was our mother-in-law, and to really know and appreciate her, I think you have to have known her from this very special context.

Knowing her from church, you know well that she was very knowledgeable about scripture, both Old and New Testaments. Knowing her as mother-in-law meant the having the fear of God thrust upon you, like it or not. That was the expectation if you were going to marry one of her children. It also meant that she identified with the “Bad Girls of the Bible,” at least in attitude, if not in lifestyle. However, this “bad girl” also made sure that her children were in church every Sunday, even if they were on vacation.

Knowing her from work, you would know that she was a perfectionist, who would spend hours searching for the smallest error. You might think that knowing her as mother-in-law would mean that she would spend hours searching for the smallest error in you or one of her other son-in-laws or daughter-in-laws. You would be wrong. Over time, you would realize that she simply had the same standard for you that she had for her own children, which is to say “very high.” She definitely wanted the best for her children, but she expected the very best from them. It was true for her children, but also for the people they married.

Knowing her as part of the family, you would know that you were loved, and know the high expectations. Knowing her as one who marries into the family, you knew that you were loved just the same, but loved voluntarily. It meant knowing that she would make desserts at holidays, just for you. It meant knowing that she would brag on you and your accomplishments just as much as she bragged on any of her children (probably not as much as the grandchildren though).

Knowing her as a grandchild, you would know what it’s like to be spoiled beyond imagination. Knowing her as the grandmother of your children was to know that you had the strongest, fastest, smartest, most beautiful children on the planet, and everyone else in the zip code knew it too. Last summer, her and her husband went with my family on a vacation to Niagara Falls, including a trip through Cleveland to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. To know her as the grandmother of your children is to see her, listening to music that she doesn’t like, looking at memorabilia that she doesn’t care for, and watching music videos with two of her grandsons. Did she have fun? Probably… but in all honesty, she did it for love.

Knowing that she was a mother-in-law, you might have expected her to be the embodiment of every joke about them you’ve ever heard. Knowing her as your mother-in-law, you learned that she was much funnier than any of the jokes, and never took herself too seriously. It meant endless stories of family and friends from Texas, years of pecan pies and Miss Jackson cake, an 8:00AM visit to your house on the first day your newborn spent home from the hospital, a never-empty basket of chocolate candy, tears in her eyes as she drops her daughter (your fiancé) off for another semester of school, and all the homemade dresses that two daughters could dream up from birth to the present.

Truth be known, my mother-in-law is an angel now, which is no surprise to four of us in the room.

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Comments»

1. A Fool and his Words are Soon Parted » Parenting Advice #2 - January 4, 2006

[...] The second big piece of parenting advice came from my mother-in-law. Now, to suggest that I saw eye-to-eye with her is wildly inaccurate, but it’s just as inaccurate to portray her as my nemesis. Regardless of my feelings about her, I realized that she knew a thing or two about childrearing, so I paid attention to her advice (which I received, whether I wanted it or not ) In short form, her most oft-quoted advice was this: Don’t send your children places; Go with them. [...]

2. A Fool and his Words are Soon Parted » Search Potpouri - January 30, 2006

[...] Running a close second is the eulogy I wrote this past summer for my mother-in-law. Some people were searching for a “bad mother eulogy,” while others were looking for a good mother-in-law joke. Oddly enough, I think she would have appreciated all the various searches. [...]

3. Mom Sandy - September 13, 2006

I am getting a bad rap of being a bad MIL. My MIL hated me and I always told my son I would not be the mother in law that that I had. However, My daughter in law is so hard to understand. I’m not to have anything to do with my son…she is now first priority. GOOD! I just want to continue to be his mom and his dad wants to be his dad. Still wants to watch ball games with him and take him out to eat once in awhile. I still want to cook his favorite foods and buy him a nice shirt once in a while. I tried for 3 years to make my DIL like me but I give up, it’s not worth it. We can’t call our son because she only talks to her parents one every 2 weeks. Hey, we had communication and consideration while our son was growing up and now that he married our DIL he’s not allowed to call or come home anymore. I miss my son. DIL get to know your in laws, if they are anything like us we just want to love you as much as we do our son. Quit doing the humiliating thing to him: You will lose him going that route, love his family, let him love yours, it will be so much nicer for both of you.

4. Tim - January 17, 2007

Mom Sandy, I wish I knew what to tell you. It sounds like there are huge issues there, much larger than just a simple MIL/DIL relationship. My only suggestion would be to sit back and wait, hard though it may be. If your son misses the communication like I would expect he does, then he will find a way to re-establish the connection with you. Until then, by not communicating with you (or sitting down with his wife and working it out), he’s demonstrating that he’s made a decision–by not making one. As you’ve observed, it’s sad for everyone, your DIL included. – Tim


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