Essays · Family & Friends · Photography


My mother-in-law passed away a few days ago. It was unexpected and has been very difficult.

We were planning on leaving April 5 to drive from Illinois to California to see her. It’d been a year. A terrible year that included the death of my father-in-law 10 months ago, the death of our lovely boy Weston, and let’s not forget, COVID. Which is why we hadn’t been there in a year. COVID shut everything down, including us, and the visit we so desperately wanted to have with Betty after Don’s passing. It was devastating for K, but Betty kept telling her to be safe, for us not to come. So we were safe, and we didn’t go.

That morning K and Betty had a lovely exchange via messenger. Betty loved messaging K through Messenger. It was almost like a secret code she learned and enjoyed. They got to say I love you, which is everything. A bit later, she was gone. But K got to have that exchange, she got to say I love you, she got to hear it back from her Mom. It’s so important to say it. All the time. As much as possible.

Betty could be opinionated, tough, ornery, and sometimes difficult. But she was also full of fun and mischief, witty, smart, and she had a great laugh. She was fiercely protective of Don, as he had been of her, and she modeled, they modeled, a good, solid, loving, marriage and partnership. They loved each other. Truly and deeply. It was a beautiful thing to see. Life for Betty without Don must have been difficult. They were together for 71 years. Wow. 71.

Together Don and Betty created a beautiful family. Their children, each accomplished and successful in their own right, who themselves then made families of their own. And so it goes. The circle and cycle of life. Moving, flowing, creating, then leaving things better than they were when they arrived in so many ways.

For me, a person who came into the family 18 years ago, I loved them and felt honored to be a part of it all. Every family has it’s stuff, it’s difficulties, it’s rythmn, it’s joys and successes, and it’s love. My in-laws had love and a great history together.

I can’t seem to wrap my head around not seeing Betty again. That has been the most difficult thing for me personally. I know, for K, it is the same. Not being able to see her Mom again. It is devastating. But Betty would not want us to dwell there, or to be sad. She would want us to think of her with Don, together again. She would want us to think that she did not suffer and she got to live out her life in her own home, still fairly independent and free.

I will miss her sense of humor, that twinkle in her eye, her mischief making, her sharp mind, and yes, even her orneriness. Maybe most especially her orneriness. I don’t know why, but that part of her, the part that liked to poke the bear and challenge you was both infuriating and confounding and something to marvel at. She held her ground, stayed strong in her beliefs. I did not agree with her so many times, but I respected her strength and conviction. I respected that orneriness.

Betty was one of a kind. A truly unique soul. Someone I was very lucky to know, and very blessed to call family. I will miss her so. But now, looking across at my honey who is typing an email to her siblings, and thinking about them as well, I know Betty, and Don who left us 10 months ago, live on. They live on in K and her siblings. They live on in their children. They live on in the hearts and minds of the rest of the family as well. They live in me. Betty is still here, still present, and will always be. Love is an incredibly powerful thing. It holds on. It holds. And as we all hold onto each other through this, I will hold onto that as well. We all will. Love holds us. It holds.

Betty is holding us right now.


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