On September 24th, 2011, my to-be mother in-law died. I had only known her for just under 2-years. Her name was Helen. She was wonderful, caring, sharp as a tac, nosy, tall, full of light, opinionated and sweet. She loved her family above all else. I had already taken to calling her “mom”. She would have been an awesome mother in-law. Sure there would have been times of aggravation but I would have loved her so very much. She was slender and had a long nose and when I first met her she had the most gorgeous long grey hair. She died of breast cancer.
I got the opportunity to become close to her because of the cancer. She was diagnosed shortly after Japheth and I started dating. Japheth moved home and in the beginning I would visit monthly. Staying entire weekends in their home in Northern New Jersey. At first it was a little strange for me but as time grew on I started to fall in love with not only Japheth but his family. His silent brooding father who is one of the softest, kindest men that I have ever met. His middle sister who in so many ways reminds me of myself, but in a lot of ways is oh so different and more hopeful than I am. His youngest sister, who is full of wonder and has an oddly appealing adult view of the world at the age of eighteen. And lastly, Helen — she was the glue that held the family together.
The last month of her life was the hardest, which I guess is not exactly a shock. I remember our last conversation — it was two weeks before she died. I have a cheap black knit Old Navy dress that she told me looked lovely on me and then we spoke about our garden and what Japh and I plan to plant in the fall. Helen was so full of knowledge. It was almost unsettling how much she knew about such a broad range of topics.
I miss her so much. About 2-months before she died she told me that she was happy that Japheth and I were getting married and that she knew that she would never have to worry about him. At the time I was touched, but dismissed it — eagerly thinking that she would get stronger and that she would still have plenty of time to worry about him. Now, it makes me really proud to know that she thought that about us and our relationship.
Slightly off topic but still important — I received an email from an old friend a few days ago. She had found out about Helen’s death and sent her sympathies. This person was my best friend for over a decade. We had a terrible falling out 3-years ago. At first I was thrown off when I saw her email address in my inbox, and then after reading her message I was unequal parts sad about the ending of our friendship and comforted by her words. I had sent a similar note to another old friend earlier this year when I had learned that her father had died. That was email was not received well. This other friend, perhaps in her grief or her straight up anger towards me decided to blog about her distaste for my message as opposed to realize that what I was trying to do was be a human being. As Vonnegut would say “So it goes…” — I had no intention of attempting a rekindling of that friendship and had actually started typing such in that email but then deleted because I found it to sound harsh and unnecessary. After she had snubbed me the bitch in me wanted to wish her the worst, but honestly it’s just not in me anymore to feel that way. I’ve grown older, more forgiving — though outside of anything really terrible happening in her life, I cannot say that I give a damn.
Moving along, this old friend that had messaged me; we are meeting for a drink this afternoon. It’s weird because I’m a little nervous. Helen and I had spoken of her a few times and she had advised me to reach out to this friend. To mend fences. That if we were such excellent friends then we should be again. Helen was definitely more thoughtful and forgiving than I am. I’m also incredibly stubborn. This is something that will probably never change but Helen’s lasting impression on me is to be a better person and to follow what I think is right. Maybe this old friend and I will not be able to have a friendship after what happened but I am going to at the very least try.