The Family We Inherit

My son-in-law’s mother died this week.  We knew it was inevitable, and she died surrounded by the people who loved her.  She was too young, and she had too many contributions left to make, but I take comfort in the wealth of family who were there for her at the end.  Her life will be celebrated this weekend in a funeral mass and in a gathering of her large, rambunctious clan.  We will be there to honor her, too.

I didn’t know Peg well, but we had one very important thing in common.  My daughter.  And from beginning to end, Peg was the mother-in-law I always wanted for her.  They probably didn’t agree on many things, but it never really mattered.  Peg showed her caring and concern for my daughter at every turn.  She had her back when I couldn’t be there.  She demonstrated how important family is, visiting, hosting parties, and arranging family camping trips.  When I was with them, she made me part of the family, too.  Not with effort, but with unconscious grace.

I love my own in-law children.  All three of them.  I always wanted a child with red-hair (genetically unlikely) and instead was given two daughters-in-law with red hair.  They’re fabulous cooks and fun to talk and shop with.  We now have a family tradition of Thanksgiving pedicures together, and it’s a cherished memory each year.  My son-in-law warms my heart with his care and concern for my daughter and grandchildren.  He’s a go-to guy, and I know he can always be counted on.  He’s the husband my daughter needed, and she chose well.  They all did.  I am blessed.

So here’s what I learned from Peg.  You don’t have to buy your way into an in-law’s heart.  You don’t have to make elaborate gestures or statements of affection.  You really just have to show up.  Again and again.  When you’re needed, and even when you’re not.

Thanks, Peg, for the advice you never even realized you gave us.  You will be missed.  You will be forever loved by all your children, those you gave birth to and those by marriage.

What a wonderful legacy you left.


  1. Kathleen O on August 31, 2012 at 11:14 am

    I have two sister in laws, one whom I adore and one who I have to tolerate becasue she is the mother of my niece and nephews. She has made things very difficult for our family over the lst number of years and because of her my family has been torn apart. Brother against Brother so to speak. The only thing that saves her is she was good to my mother in the last weeks of her life. But I hate to say that I think she had an agenda for keeping my mother in my mother’s good graces. Only it didn’t work. I know I sound bitter you are so lucky to have the daughter in laws you are blessed with. But if you had been through what we have been through then you might feel this way too..

  2. Lynn Ross on September 1, 2012 at 1:04 am

    What a beautiful tribute, Emilie! I’m sure she felt the same way about you. What a blessing to feel this way about your in-laws. You have a wonderful family.
    Please accept my deepest sympathy for all of you.

  3. Teel on September 1, 2012 at 8:06 am

    A lovely tribute to family…!

  4. Debbie Haupt on September 4, 2012 at 11:09 am

    So sorry for your loss Emilie, a wonderful compliment to her.

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