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A Life Well Lived

A Life Well Lived

by Gina Valley

My husband’s mom died in the wee hours of this morning.

Although she had been declining, her passing was not expected.  Fortunately, all of her children were at her side when she slipped away.  My husband is very sad.  My heart is broken for him.  Both of his parents are gone now, so it’s a double loss.

Humor Funny Humorous Family Life Love Laugh Laughter Parenting Mom Moms Dad Dads Child Kid Kids Children Son Sons Daughter Daughters Brother Brothers Sister Sisters Grandparent Grandma Grandpa Grandparents Grandfather Grandmother Gina Valley Mother In Law MIL Death Passing A Life Well LivedI suppose I’m like everyone else in examining my own life whenever I’m confronted with the death of someone, especially someone close to me.

We want to come to the end and look back and see that we had a life well lived.

My mother-in-law was loved by me and my family, by her children, by her friends.  But, she was not an easy person.

She was very set in her ways, and quite forthright.   She always spoke her mind.   She could not be made to do anything she did not want to do.  Not even on her last day here on earth.

She made it quite clear that she was not happy when my husband and I married.  I was the wrong religion, the wrong race, and the wrong class.   For years she refused to even eat anything I had cooked.  We did not see eye to eye on most matters.

Humor Funny Humorous Family Life Love Laugh Laughter Parenting Mom Moms Dad Dads Child Kid Kids Children Son Sons Daughter Daughters Brother Brothers Sister Sisters Grandparent Grandma Grandpa Grandparents Grandfather Grandmother Gina Valley Mother In Law MIL Death Passing A Life Well LivedBut, in an odd way I understood where she was coming from.

And, even though her demeanor softened a bit toward me in her latter years (the last years of her life she even ate more heartily at my table than anywhere else), she remained steadfastly set in her ways until even the last day of her life.

But, looking at her life, I see that she lived it well.  She lived it according to her own standards and plans. She accomplished much of what she set out to accomplish.

There’s a lot to be said for that.

Her goals, her plans, her hopes may have been a bit different from mine, but her determination to accomplish them against whatever the odds may be was unstoppable.  That’s impressive.

Humor Funny Humorous Family Life Love Laugh Laughter Parenting Mom Moms Dad Dads Child Kid Kids Children Son Sons Daughter Daughters Brother Brothers Sister Sisters Grandparent Grandma Grandpa Grandparents Grandfather Grandmother Gina Valley Mother In Law MIL Death Passing A Life Well LivedI can look at her life and say that it was well lived and there are many lessons to be taken away from that.

My MIL would do whatever was necessary to accomplish her goals.  She didn’t have a lot to work with, but she used what she had.  That’s especially impressive when you realize that she was an only child, orphaned at a young age, had a 6th grade education, and was 4’8” tall and 100 pounds at her largest point.

“Using what we have” sometimes feels like a strange concept.  Sometimes we spend so much time equipping ourselves to do something, that we don’t do anything.  We wait until everything is ready and it never is and we miss our chance.  Sometimes we need to get in there and get the job done with what we’re already carrying.  Her life reminded me of that.

She was a magician with growing roses.  I’ve never met anyone, no matter their background in horticulture, who had mastered roses like she had.  She had a special kinship with her roses.  In fact, the few times early in our marriage when she softened toward me it was when one of my rose bushes was particularly spectacular.  I supposed that was some sort of flora endorsement of me.

Humor Funny Humorous Family Life Love Laugh Laughter Parenting Mom Moms Dad Dads Child Kid Kids Children Son Sons Daughter Daughters Brother Brothers Sister Sisters Grandparent Grandma Grandpa Grandparents Grandfather Grandmother Gina Valley Mother In Law MIL Death Passing A Life Well LivedShe could snip a branch off of one of her rose bushes, push it into the soil, and grow it into a beautiful new plant.  No special chemicals or plant hormones or potting soil.  I tried it and was never successful, even when I cheated and used every chemical and technology available.  I asked her once how she did it.  She said, “I just know.  You just keep trying until you know.”

A lot of things in life are like that. It’s important to keep trying.  It’s one of the ways we show that we care about something.   Stubbornness and determination may be different sides of a fine line, but, whatever we call it, stick-to-it-ness is a valuable trait in life.  Her life reminded me of that.

She and my father-in-law were determined that their children would be college educated.  They worked tirelessly at multiple jobs to make that dream a reality.  Their children knew early on that they would graduate from college.  They saw their parents struggle to earn the money necessary to make that dream come true.  It taught them to do their part.  They struggled to make it happen.  But, in the end, all three of their children not only earned college degrees, but all three work for universities now.

Humor Funny Humorous Family Life Love Laugh Laughter Parenting Mom Moms Dad Dads Child Kid Kids Children Son Sons Daughter Daughters Brother Brothers Sister Sisters Grandparent Grandma Grandpa Grandparents Grandfather Grandmother Gina Valley Mother In Law MIL Death Passing A Life Well LivedThe goals that matter take hard work.  The work is part of the goal.  The journey is part of the destination.  The hard work to get there makes us into the people we need to be to accomplish the goal when we get there.  Her life reminded me of that.

She made the best lumpia ever.  It’s a filled and stuffed dough wrapper, similar to an egg roll but with none of that pesky cabbage.  Hers were out of this world.  Everyone who had them said so. The thing is, overall, she was not a good cook.  In fact, I think one of the points of contention between us was that I am.  I’m sure that it must have bothered her to no end when her family raved about my cooking, remembering the complaints she’d heard for years.  But, no one, no one, could make lumpia like she could.  She was outstanding at it.

We tend to forget that we are unique, and that that is a good thing.  We each have something special that we’re great at.  It doesn’t matter that we aren’t good at everything else.  What matters is developing that one special thing that we are gifted with, no matter what it is.  We can’t excel at everything.  But, we can be outstanding at something, and that is more important.  Her life reminded me of that.

I will miss my mother-in-law.  Not just because she was my children’s grandmother.  Not just because she was my husband’s mom.  But because I loved her for being completely herself.

Humor Funny Humorous Family Life Love Laugh Laughter Parenting Mom Moms Dad Dads Child Kid Kids Children Son Sons Daughter Daughters Brother Brothers Sister Sisters Grandparent Grandma Grandpa Grandparents Grandfather Grandmother Gina Valley Mother In Law MIL Death Passing A Life Well Lived

I will miss hugging her and telling her I love her, and hearing her tell me she loves me, which I think she actually meant in the latter years of her life.

I will miss shopping for her Christmas and birthday gifts, which if she didn’t like she would give back and tell me to return, and if she did like them she would give back and say that it was too good for her and we should keep it.

I will even miss hearing her say in her raspy, heavily accented tiny voice, the parting salutation she always gave her kids for the decades I knew her, “Oh, the next time you see me, I will be dead.”  Her kids can roll their eyes better than anyone I know.

She lived a long life.

And, she lived it well.

I hope the same can be said for me when I’ve reached the end of my days in this world.

Already missing you, mom.

Love!

-gina

Have you lost someone close to you?  What did you learn from his/her life?  What funny thing did they do that you always think of when you remember them?  How have you filled that hole in your life?  Shoot me a comment.  I’m looking forward to hearing all about it.

15 Responses
  • Very, very well said. I am so sorry for your loss but as you said so well, she lived her life the way she wanted and I would say with little regrets. 🙂

    • gina valley
      March 27, 2013

      Thank you, Susan. I appreciate your support.

  • VeronicaBasye
    March 19, 2013

    That was Beautiful, Gina. I’m sorry for yours and your family’s loss. Many women can relate to the friction of a Mother-In-Law, there are only a few who get along from the start. It sounds like your MIL had some spunk, and that’s a great thing to have.
    I lost my cousin 6yrs ago. He was 29. I can’t believe that it’s been that long. He was like a brother to me. Some of my fondest memories was his laugh- it was the funniest laugh ever. I remember how we would watch Saturday morning cartoons and go to the Drive-In with my other cousins, who are also like siblings to me. A year after he died, I had my son, who carries my cousin’s name, Alexander, as his middle name. I delight in watching my children and stepson play because it reminds me of that very special time that my cousin was always around. His life taught me to enjoy life and his death taught me that every moment is precious.

    • gina valley
      March 27, 2013

      Thank you, Veronica. I appreciate your kind words.
      I lost a cousin in his late twenties, also. It was so horrible. I think about him often. You are so right about untimely deaths being strong reminders that life is precious.

  • Lisa Ladrido
    March 20, 2013

    I am so sorry to hear about your loss Gina. It is so hard to lose someone that you love. She was so lucky to have you as her daughter-in-law. You wrote such a beautiful tribute to her. My husband makes awesome lumpia too! It is one of my favorite Filipino foods that he makes. I lost my mom and she loved flowers as well. She did the same thing but with hibiscus. She created a hillside of different breeds that she mixed herself. Looking up at that hill and seeing so many beautiful colors of plate sized blooms is something I will never forget. I think the thing I learned was that we have to tell our loved ones how much they mean to us while we are still here to do so. I pray that God will bring you and your family peace during this time of loss.

    • gina valley
      March 27, 2013

      Thank you, Lisa. I appreciate your support.
      Is your husband Filipino? It’s great that he cooks well.
      You’re right that it’s so very important to tell people how much they mean to us while we’re still here together to do it.
      Thank you for your prayers.

      • Lisa Ladrido
        March 28, 2013

        Yes he is, he is from Olongapo in Subic Bay. I am learning how to cook some meals but he is the king in that department! I hope you are doing okay. Sending hugs your way.

  • Marjorie McAtee
    March 20, 2013

    I’m sorry for your loss. *hugs*

    • gina valley
      March 27, 2013

      Thank you, Marjorie. Hugs always help.

  • Deone Higgs
    March 20, 2013

    Saddened to hear about the loss of your mother-in-law, Gina. My sincerest condolences to you, your husband, and family during this time. My prayers and thoughts go out to each of you. Blessings.

    • gina valley
      March 27, 2013

      Thank you so much for your condloences, Deone. And, for your prayers. Both are much appreciaed.

  • Molley Mills
    March 21, 2013

    What a touching tribute to someone who, although hard to love become someone so important to you. Sorry for your loss. I hope your family find a peace soon.

    • gina valley
      March 27, 2013

      Thank you, Molley. I appreciate your supportive words.

  • Crazed in the Kitchen
    March 21, 2013

    What a beautiful tribute. I am so sorry for your loss.

    • gina valley
      March 27, 2013

      Thank you, Molly. I appreciate your support.