When I am experiencing pain or stress, I create. I either create with my hands or with words. This past week, I have used my hands to create something special and as I did, words began to fill my head. I’d like to share them with you.
I’ve been fortunate to have many influential women in my life. My mother-in-law, Laurel, is one of those women. She has been a part of my life since I was 15 years old, when I started dating her son in high school. When I found myself unmarried and pregnant when I was 18 years old, Laurel came into the fast food restaurant where I was working. I tried to hide in the back so she wouldn’t see me because I was worried she would judge me harshly. You see, I had broken up with her son before our high school graduation and here I was, less than a year later, pregnant with another boy’s child. We didn’t speak, but later that day, Jason called me to say that his mom had talked to him and demanded to know if the baby was his (she may have actually used the word “ours”). Of course he told her the truth that it wasn’t.
A short time later, she contacted me and wanted to talk to me about what my plans for the future were and how I planned to support the baby. I wasn’t going to school; I was just working a couple of part time jobs and trying to get through the pregnancy. She asked me if I had any idea of what I wanted to do and when I told her that nursing might interest me, she asked if she could take me to the vocational school to take a career exploration test and maybe an intake test. She went with me and sat with me while I talked with the intake counselor. She helped me do everything I needed to do in order to start vocational college as a medical assistant once the baby was born. Without her push, I am not sure when or if I would have gone through with it.
Laurel has been there for me for some of the most difficult times in my life. When my dad got pancreatic cancer, her wisdom was an enormous comfort to me. I can picture exactly where we were during a particular conversation we had when my dad was first diagnosed. I felt like I was walking through mud in those first days and she said something to me that made me feel like I could breathe again. To this day, I still remember the words that she said. It was enormously helpful and I was able to get through the next weeks more easily than I might have otherwise.
When Sam died, even in her own grief at the loss of her first born grandson, she provided comfort to Jason and I. Again, I know exactly where we were when we had a soothing conversation shortly after his death and I remember the words she said to us. They are in my heart and I take them out when I need to remind myself that it wasn’t my fault that he died.
My mother-in-law is an amazing woman. After she pushed me back into school, she herself went back to college and got her degree in social work. She ran a transitional housing building for single mothers who were trying to get out of difficult situations. I don’t know if it was coincidence that she ended up in that field or not, but I like to think that I am the first young mother that she helped.
My mother-in-law is very sick. She has metastatic pancreatic cancer. I’ve been devastated since I heard the news. As sad as I am for myself, I’m even more devastated for all those around me. We are an extraordinarily close family. We spend a lot of time together and this last year has been enormously difficult for us. We spent Christmas, Laurel’s favorite holiday, together on Zoom. My girls are hurting and watching them with broken hearts is tearing mine to shreds. I’m worried about my brothers- and sisters-in-law and all my nieces and nephews and my grandchildren. I’m worried about Laurel and the pain and struggle she is enduring.
Laurel has so many people who love her and I know everyone is sending their prayers up for her. She’s been a part of an enormous church family for so many years. Those people have reached out to us, as well, and their thoughts and prayers warm our hearts and lift us up. I know that they, too, are worried and saddened about what Laurel is going through.
I wish you could know her. I hope I’ve helped you to. She has been a strong and loving force in mine and many other’s lives. She’s helped to raise many of us and helped us and so many others to become the people that we are today. We love you, Laurel.