Tuesday, May 10, 2011
My mother-in-law, Karen, passed away this morning.
I was home asleep on the couch (thank you tooth extraction) and Mike came downstairs to tell me his dad had just called. "My mom died."
We both sat there, almost in disbelief, taking in the words as they still hung in the air between us. The windows were open and I was aware of how beautiful the day outside was. I took small comfort in knowing that the day of Karen's death was one of sun and loveliness.
My tears were the first to come. They were a mix of relief that she is no longer suffering and sadness that she is gone. I called my parents, who loved Karen too, and Mike went to call his brother and a few friends. And then I turned here.
I've been contemplating how I would handle Karen's death in this space. It occurs to me that there is so much more to Karen than what her obituary will say.
The notice of her death might mention her multiple degrees. But it won't tell you that the greatest measure of Karen's brain was her emotional intelligence. She loved people and she loved making connections between people. I often joked that it would take 20 minutes to leave a restaurant because Karen would invariably stop at several tables to talk with people she knew -- and she knew EVERYONE. Karen was the physical embodiment of Facebook before Facebook even existed.
Her obituary will most certainly include mention of her civic accomplishments, most notably her role as the founder of the Children's Museum of Evansville. It was her second greatest passion. Her first was her family. She was quick to rise up and defend her children from the time they were small and she knew no greater role than that of grandmother -- GoGo as she chose to be called.
She was not overly religious, but she was unflinchingly supportive of the fact that we choose to raise our own children in faith. And every time she pulled out of the driveway, she would toot the horn twice in front of an elderly neighbor's house and instruct her passengers to "Pray for Alma Baker."
I will be listed among her survivors, but no amount of column inches in the newspaper can begin to express how much I loved her. She has been part of my life for more than half of my years (that's what you get when you marry young). And she was my champion in my roles as wife and mother. She leaped to my defense on the Blue River when Mike was hollering at me to "look for the V" from the front of our canoe. She paid to have nearly 100 pounds of unfinished laundry carted out of my house to be washed, dried and folded by the dry cleaner. More importantly, in the recent years when our marriage has been tried, Karen stood by my side and reassured me that I was doing the right thing.
There is no way that the newsprint will be able to convey her laughter. It's one of the things I will miss the most. She'll no doubt be laughing from heaven when I say that her first question at the pearly gates is probably "What's for lunch?"
And no paper in the world would print that her favorite curse word was "F*ck," generally used in triplicate when something went wrong.
The obituary for my mother-in-law will not begin to describe who she really was. And I've probably done a miserable job trying to capture it here.
So I'll just leave it at this: Her name was Karen. And she was loved.
Linking this up with this week's Pour Your Heart Out.