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Monday, June 28, 2010

What Do You Want On Your Tombstone?

No, this isn’t a pizza commercial. It’s the first REAL post about my Mother-In-Law since she died. I still don’t have it in me to detail exactly what happened. Those close to me already know but actually writing it down makes it still all too final and I really don’t want to go there yet.

But there has been a whirlwind of things going on since her death. We had Mother’s Day, which was rough, my F-I-L’s birthday, vacation and Father’s Day since then and we’ve been real busy with just life like getting the pool situation fixed, planning a third birthday, and gardening and some minor landscaping. Loads of fun. However, one thing was still hanging out there undone. We needed to get a final marker for her grave.

My F-I-L got a set of plots when she died and decided to get a marker for both of them at the same time. Before my wife left for the appointment she asked if I had any suggestions on what they should put on the marker. I said, “Me?” After all, I’m just the in-law. I’m not blood. Besides, how can you expect anyone to spend two minutes and come up with something that encapsulates their life and will be a permanent testament to how they lived? But, that’s not to say I had an opinion. In fact I had something pop into my head immediately after my wife asked me the question.

There’s something you have to understand about this woman. She never backed down from a fight. She spent the last twelve years beating the pants off of cancer. In the end, she had beaten it but a stupid hemorrhage in her brain, exacerbated by the fact that she was on a blood thinner for pulmonary emboli, is what nailed her. In fact, most people’s markers at the memorial park where she is buried only have years, maybe months and years listed for their birth and death dates. My wife wanted to make sure the entire birth date and death date were listed because she fought for every single one of those days since 1996. But that’s who she was.

And it’s because of that spirit that she didn’t pull any punches. You knew exactly where you stood with her and if you had an inkling that maybe she didn’t like you, there was probably a reason for it. Some may call that being a bitch but if so, that was a badge of honor. She learned to live life without fear of regret or retribution after staring down death’s door and she let even the highest level of management in her company know exactly how she felt. It wasn’t always rainbows and unicorns and she told them like it was. I think they respected her even if they didn’t like what she had to say. And for every difference of opinion or opposite position she took, when she finished her piece she’d say, “How am I doing?” She’d even say it with a smile. So, when my wife asked me that question, the first thing that popped into my head, albeit morbidly ironic, yet fitting was, “How am I doing?”

Yeah, it was morbid. “How am I doing?” Well, you’re dead but other than that just fine. As bad as it sounds saying it out loud, in the back of my head I can hear this cackle of laughter because she would have laughed out loud in a raucous way at the mere suggestion of that being her final words. She would have got the joke. Even my wife smirked at the thought but I didn’t expect her to take it seriously. After that, I said there were not enough words to sum up her life. She was an exceptional human being, a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a daughter, a sister, a fighter, a hero, and a million other appropriate words that would not fit on a piece of bronze that measures roughly two to three feet in length. I had one other suggestion that I thought was appropriate and would still get a laugh in my head from my Mother-in-Law. It was silly and a throw away suggestion.

“Sassy, brassy, and oh so classy”

My wife chuckled and went out the door. She came back a few hours later and handed me the picture of what the marker would look like. On one side there was the information for my Father-in-Law, which included a deer and the words, “Just cleaning my guns” and on the other side was my Mother-in-Law’s information with a cross and the words.


I laughed and then wept a little. I never expected them to use my goofy comment and I didn’t try to even suggest that they should. Again, I only married their daughter. I don’t claim ownership of anything decision related in the family. I merely offered a suggestion after I was asked. Of course, it made me honored, even though I was bummed that they didn’t use the whole quote. Apparently, it’s $20 a word. I would have given them the $40 or suggested that they used supercalifragilisticexpialidocious just to be a prick. My wife said I could have that one on my marker.

I think I’d like a different quote. “How am I doing?” seems to be one of my favorites at the moment. At least I don’t have to pay royalties to the originator. But I’d gladly cut her a check if she’d pick it up in person, right now.

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