To The Mother-In-Law I Will Never Meet

by Harmony Smith
Originally Published: 
Josh Willink / PEXELS

The jokes and complaints seem to be everywhere. I may chuckle or offer sympathetic remarks, but any talk about mothers-in-law tends to make me uncomfortable and overwhelmed by a medley of thoughts and emotions. As you know all too well, you were taken suddenly from this world when your oldest child, my husband, was only 5 years old. While he did grow up to be a pretty wonderful man, he continues to carry the loss of you within him. Your influence prevails and impacts every piece of his life including, and to a significant extent, me.

Once in a while, I experience a brief flash of gratitude after seeing an overly attached mother doting on an adult son and interjecting herself into his marriage. There are times when I feel thankful that he is all mine and that I don’t have to share him with another female besides our daughter. These limited instances are immediately followed by a pang of guilt. More frequently, though, my thoughts are of how sorry I am for you and your son having missed out on a lifetime of special experiences together.

I think about you a lot. I have always felt like there is some extra responsibility that comes with being your son’s wife. Growing up in a household comprised of only males has made him a bit rough around the edges. He has a chip on his shoulder that will never heal. I feel charged with the duty to somehow supplement the tenderness that has been missing from his life for such a long time. I try my best, but the wounds caused by the loss of a mother’s love can never be fully mended.

Your story became personally heartbreaking after we had our own children. I find it terrifying to think about being suddenly ripped away from them. They need me so much. They cry if I’m not there to tuck them into bed the right away and kiss them goodnight. They sometimes tell me they missed me when I went for a jog around the block. I cannot fathom never being there for them ever again.

I’ve already had one year more with my oldest son than you did with yours, and I wouldn’t trade that time with him for anything. I can’t imagine the idea of not being there for them during the different trials and tribulations that come with each new candle on the birthday cake.

Your son’s continued struggle is never more raw and exposed than when he talks about you to our children. He tries to be objective while explaining that his mommy died, but I can see the pain trying to escape. Under his protective demeanor, there are ripples of emotion slipping out just enough to crack his voice. We have gone to visit your grave with them. They are respectful for a few minutes before becoming distracted by birds and flowers. He sometimes reminds the kids how lucky they are to have me. While I appreciate the thought, that perspective came at a very high price. The kids tell us about wanting to meet you. I know we both wish they could.

Please accept my apology for those fleeting moments of gratitude for not having to deal with a mother-in-law. Who knows — maybe we could have had a great relationship. However, I’m even more sorry for everything you’ve missed out on. There are definitely times when I want to go hide and drink wine in a closet because the house is being torn apart by a pack of crazy kids, but there are amazing moments too. Our children bring such unbridled joy to my heart with snuggles, nonsensical stories, new achievements, meticulously created works of art, and small acts of love. We make the most precious memories from the simplest of moments. You missed out on so much — both the good and the bad. I’m sure you would have gladly accepted it all if only given the choice.

Above all, I want to thank you. You helped me understand just how important a mother is to her children. You taught me that my kids will carry the lessons and experiences of their early years with them for the rest of their life. Thank you for the opportunity to create an amazing life and family together with your son. You started him on the path that led to me, and for that, I will be forever grateful.

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