Mark’s away from us at the moment and it’s been an incredibly hard time. Don’t get me wring. He’s been away before. On trips to see his family overseas and on business, but this time he’s in Mossel Bay and it feels like he may as well be on the moon.

His mom, my mom in law, Emma and Ben’s granny, is very ill. In fact, as I type this Mark, his sister, step dad and uncle are at her bedside waiting for her to pass on. They have removed all life support, upped the morphine and are keeping her as comfortable as possible until she decides she wants to go.

Exactly a month ago there was absolutely nothing wrong with her. She was packing up house, along with her husband as they were in the process of moving to a smaller property on Thesen Island. I was still avoiding her phone calls and smsing that I’d call her back. And then on the 7th May I realised something was wrong. I hadn’t received my birthday call from my MIL. I didn’t get a chance to ignore it and then listen to umpteen messages because she never left short ones. I missed snorting at the long smses berating me for ignoring her calls, not calling her back and sucking as a daughter in law.

And that night at my birthday dinner Mark got a call that she had had a heart attack but was in hospital and all would be okay. But it wasn’t and it’s not. Mark is sitting at his mom’s side, counting the minutes until she’s no longer and he is broken. And I’m not there to help him through this. And even if I was close by it’s still something he needs to go through on his own. Both my parents are still with me so I have no idea the pain he’s going through. But I do know how incredibly much he loves his mom. I also know how much she loves him. And I know that her love for Emma and Ben is endless. Especially Emma. They shared such a bond and last night, when Mark had called me to say that I must give Emma the biggest hug and kiss goodbye from granny, Emma already knew something was up.

As a daughter in law I sucked. As a daughter I suck. As a wife and friend I suck too. I never open up to people and when I am in the most desperate need of company or a hug, that’s when I back off completely. I hate being asked how I am or how things are. I loathe people caring about me. And that’s what Dawn did. And she did it well. To the point of driving me insane.

I have no idea how to tell Emma that her granny won’t be around in the holidays or for her next birthday. I dread trying to explain to her that her ‘crazy granny’ won’t be around to look for hermit crabs with her or to introduce her to each and every bird that visits her garden. By name, surname and address. How do I tell my little girl that her granny who kept the patio door open for the chameleons to pop in is no longer here?

Dawn was that granny that made a trip to the beach a nightmare because she packed fifteen bags of ‘in case’s’. ‘Here’s frozen water, in case it gets too hot’, ‘here’s cold water in case the frozen water doesn’t melt’, ‘here’s snacks in case you get hungry’, ‘here’s more snacks in case you don’t like the other ones I packed’, ‘here’s two different coloured umbrellas in case someone else on the beach has the same colour as yours and you can’t find your spot’ and so it went.

My mother in law drove me insane with how much she cared. She gave me a tongue lashing once when I used a ‘dirty’ cloth to wipe Emma’s mouth. And every visit to her house after that included showing me where spare new AND clean cloths were for Emma and then for Ben.

And as I sit here and type this it all seems unreal. I had planned on ignoring her phone calls for the next 15 years, at least. And having Emma complain to her about what a yuck mom I’ve been. I had ideas of Emma and Ben taking a plane trip to spend time with granny and grandpa in their new home on the lagoon and hearing all about their escapades.

I think her passing on is so she can keep an all-seeing, all-knowing eye on Ben and Emma from high up there and occasionally let me know that she’s seeing what I’m doing, and not doing, with her babies.

When all is said and done and the laws of nature dictate that DIL’s don’t get on with MIL’s, Dawn is, was and always be the epitome of a mom and granny. When it came to her children and her grandchildren, nothing was too much for her. And even though for the last 10 years I never gave an inch, she went out of her way to make me feel loved and accepted.

When all is said and done Dawn, I couldn’t have asked for a better granny for my two children. And the way you love your son shines in the way he loves his family.


11 thoughts on “When all is said and done

  1. I'm so sorry Melinda! What a beautiful tribute to your MIL. This really made me stop and think about my own MIL, because we have a…. mmmm… rather strained (putting it politely) relationship and perhaps it's time I made more effort before its too late!

  2. So sorry to hear of the difficult time your family is experiencing. Tomorrow will be two years since my dad died. He had a terminal illness so we knew for a while that he was on his way out and we had the support of the amazing people at hospice. Some of their advice to us was to make sure we said everything we wanted to say to my dad and to include the children in everything that was happening to their grandpa and explain the dying process in age appropriate ways. We got some storybooks that help children understand death to read with our boys and those really helped. If we don't tell the children what is going on, it is like any secret – the child's imagination creates much worse scenarios than the reality. We found the advice was spot on. Sterkte to all of you.

  3. Mel, this is heartbreaking. Thinking of you all and especially Mark as he says goodbye to his Mommy. Tell Ems the truth… she knows instinctively anyway, not easy but better for her to get the truth from the person she trusts the most – her own Mommy.

    Hugs to you all.


  4. Hindsight sucks. Live well in the knowledge that you did all you know how and don't beat yourself up too much.

    Emma has some great memories…

  5. This is such a loving and touching tribute to your MIL. My heart goes out to you, your man and the whole family….I sat with my dad a year ago when he passed away from lung cancer and it was heartbreaking….stay strong.

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