My husband’s parents were married in 1964. Over fifty two years, they built a family—three sons and eventually five grandchildren. And they built a life—a home on six acres, leadership in 4H and the literacy council, church involvement, neighborhood friendships, holiday traditions, ways of doing things.
One chapter of their book closed with my mother-in-law’s death on April 26th. Neighbors, friends, and relatives came to honor that long chapter at her funeral.
As they did so, I watched a new chapter open. My widowed father-in-law silently invited his sons and daughters-in-law to become leaders in the family. The change was palpable. We were now among the grown-ups; expectations were set accordingly.
For the first time, I was one of the ladies in charge. Eyes turned to me. I played hostess, greeting every funeral guest. People looked to me for help finding things in my in-laws’ home. My father-in-law began speaking to me about his wishes for his own eventual funeral. I watched myself become not just the matriarch of my own nuclear family but an important female presence in my husband’s family. The transition was unmistakeable.
And it turned out I was ready. For years, my mother-in-law had been training me, perhaps without either of us realizing it. The time came, and I knew who everyone was, what the priorities were, where the sought items could be found. I knew how to be Mrs. Goetsch.
I took the name almost fifteen years ago, and it was only last week that I understood all it entailed.
The weeks preceding my mother-in-law’s death prepared my husband and his brothers to take new roles, as well. As they cared for their mom alongside their dad, they became partners with him. The time for being children was over. They, too, were ready.
Good beginnings can indeed spring from sad endings.
©2017, Laura Goetsch and Thinking About Such Things