Last words

I really lucked out in the mother-in-law department. All the old jokes just don’t apply to the warm, loving, patient woman who I was lucky enough to call my mother-in-law.

One of my first memories of her was from a time just a month or two after I met her son. I didn’t know him well yet, and I didn’t know much about her either. We were at her home, and we had cross-country skis with us. I was 25 years old and swam competitively, so I was in pretty good shape. As we put on our skis, I pondered how I would have to slow down my pace to accommodate her—she was in her late sixties, after all.  But then, she strapped on her skis and set off like a ski marathoner across the field. I huffed and puffed behind her trying, but failing to keep up. That was my first lesson in the athleticism of the woman who would eventually be my mother-in-law. When she was eighty years old, she could beat me quite handily on a tennis court.

Later, this athletic singer, baker, Scout leader, Sunday school teacher, community volunteer, mother of four boys who smiled her way through life began to develop senile dementia. A series of mini-strokes robbed her of her ability to speak and walk. Her words became fewer and fewer, with more time between each.

A few years ago, her great-grandson was born. Her son and granddaughter took the baby to meet his great-grandmother. They took him over to her wheelchair and held him up for her to see. My mother-in-law’s eyes lit up, she smiled, reached out her hands and said, “Joy, joy.”

Those were the last words that I remember her speaking clearly and with intention.

When the last word is joy, you know it was a life well lived.

7 thoughts on “Last words

  1. karen

    Arlene, What a beautiful tribute to your mother inlaw. Our thoughts are with you and Don and the kids. Raye will be proud to carry on her name

  2. Joanne

    Arlene, first, I am very sorry about the loss of your mother-in-law. I know, from stories you would tell, how much she meant to you. This posting is a beautiful tribute to her. Everyone should hope that their last words will be ‘joy’! hugs

  3. Jennifer

    Arlene….I didn’t realize that you had lost Don’s mom…I’m so sorry. Your story brought tears to my eyes. My mother is in the early stages of dementia and while I was repeating myself several times over the weekend with her, I did remind myself that she still knows us and for that we are so grateful….xo

    1. Arlene Post author

      Thanks, Jennifer. It’s hard to watch someone you love go through the stages of dementia and Alzheimers. But the experience brought me many beautiful gifts and lessons as well. I’ll remember those.


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