Forgive me if you will for not posting about something Western or something American Indian. Bear with me as I digress.
This is my mother-in-law, Joyce as I have known her for the 14 years that my husband and I have been married. I can’t remember when I didn’t have an independent spirit — it seems to be a part of me — and so I was leary of mother-in-laws, I must admit. But over time, I came to love an admire my mother in law as though she were my own mother. This picture was taken in 2005 at her home in Montana.
Since many of you who come to this blog are also on my email list, you probably know that I had to make an emergency cancellation of my book signing in Houston. I was happily on my way to Houston when I received word that my mother in law, who had been sick, had taken a turn for the worst. Needless to say I turned around (18 hours on the road that day) and drove home to be with my husband, who in turn, finished his work cycles in record time so we could get on the road to Montana the next day. This picture to the right I think shows the amount of affinity and love between us.
Off to the right here is a picture of my husband (on the left), Joyce and my brother in law, Bob, who passed away almost 2 years ago to the day (Bob is on the right in this pictuer). Anyway, my husband and I arrived in Montana with just enough time to see her before she passed away. She was unconscious the entire time we were there, but I still believe that she knew we were there. And my husband was with her the moment she passed away from this world in this body. She was surrounded by friends and family, and I can’t think of a better way to leave this life than to have those you love most around you toward the end of this life.
She had been fighting cancer. As an 84 year old woman, she had yet been given chemo and radiation therapy at the same time. It proved too much for her and she ended the treatments simply because they made her so sick. But damage had been done and her immune system was shot from all the chemo What she died from was an infection that her body couldn’t fight off because of her suppressed immune system. How I wish sometimes that I had a time machine so I could go back and change all that.
I will miss her. I can’t even begin to name the ways in which she helped both my husband and myself. I can’t even begin to describe what it was like to have a person there who truly cared so much about me — even though I was only the daughter-in-law. Over the years, I came to love this woman very much — just as though she were a mother. (This picture to the right by the way is Bob on the far left, Joyce and me — I don’t think I can still get into those jeans, but that’s another subject.)
I remember when my husband and I were first married and on our honeymoon, his mother and father called us. I remember thinking at the time that this was strange (my own mother passed away long ago and I had been on my own and independent for quite a while). I remember thinking, “Oh, dear, what is this all about?” But over time I came to understand that she was showing her love for my husband and that eventually this included me, as well. It was Joyce who showed me really what a mother in law can be — what is expected — what I should do — how loving I should be. I will always remember this — always remember the love she showered on me and others and I am so glad that I had the chance to get to know this incredible individual. The picture to the right is a beautiful kiss between my hsuband and my mother-in-law.
My life is better now because of her loving care. And I know that I’ll be a better mother-in-law, myself, because of the example she set. Anyway, I hope you will forgive me from straying away from my usual sort of blogs on Native America. In a way, this blog is along the line of a Western, if only because Joyce was raised in North Dakota and lived most of her life there and in Montana. It was from my visits to her home, where I had the leisure to go to the Blackfeet reservation and the Crow and Northern Cheyenne reservation.
We’re back home now in southern California — and our animals were happy to see us again — after our 22-24 hour trip — do I look as tired as I felt in this picture? And of course life goes on as it was intended to do. But there are some people who touch you greatly and this is the kind of person that Joyce was.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this blog and that I have managed to do tribute to her properly. I know she’s okay and I know in some other time and place, she will be the source of joy to many, many people. Our elders in Native America and in our past, have always been around helping, teaching, showing the way. What would we do without them and their gentle wisdom?