The recent passing of Independence Day brings me to a sad place in my heart. I have many fond memories of sitting on a blanket in the grass with friends and family, waiting for the fireworks, eating delicious food, running around with sparklers, running away from our store-bought fireworks.
Yet since the year 2014, I will never be able to look at fireworks and the 4th of July the same way: 2014 was a hard year for my family; it was the year my mother-in-law lost her fight with cancer.
That year, instead of watching fireworks or grilling, we spent our weekend in the hospital. I spent the night holding and comforting my husband. I spent that night in tears, grieving the loss of my daughter’s grandmother and thinking about how little time she had with her. We spent the night asking questions and wondering what the next steps might be in our lives. We spent the night with restless sleep and heavy hearts.
We spent the next few days planning a funeral, going through bills, going through the motions of life after a deep loss. You still have to breathe and eat. We had to care for our one year old.
I wish I could say we graciously accepted her death, but we were not expecting it. She went in for hydration and nutrition and we all believed, hoped, expected she would be leaving the hospital. We still believed we would win this fight against cancer. In fact, my husband was with his mom the day before her passing. She was talking coherently, lovingly. She was herself. My husband often said that our mothers (and fathers) would not always be here with us. My mother-in-law passed away the very next day.
While we did not celebrate the birth of our beloved country, we did celebrate.
Oh, we grieved, and still do, though time does heal all wounds, eventually. We celebrated her life. How trite that sounds now. My mother-in-law knew what it meant to love and she knew what family should be. Not once was I ever made to feel unloved or unaccepted. I was made to feel like a daughter she never had. I wish I could say I have no regrets. I cannot, however. I do not live in regret; nothing you can do can change the past. I do hope I learn from the past.
So each year, around this celebratory holiday, we celebrate with the usual festivities, but we also celebrate my mother-in-law’s life and grieve her death. My heart is heavy with the truth that my children will never know the love of their “Mimi,” and boy, did she know how to love. I celebrate that she was able to see her first granddaughter’s first steps. She was able to hear my daughter’s first words. She was able to hear the sweet words of “Mimi” from a toddler’s mouth.
Recently, my now four-year-old, has told me she was talking to “Mimi.” I do not know whether she has heard us say her name or if she’s seen pictures. Her name does not come up every day, nor do I remember the last time we talked with our daughter about her Mimi. Whatever the reason, it gives us peace to know that she is still with us in our hearts and perhaps watching over her beloved granddaughter.