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Friday, February 12, 2016

We All Shine On

I missed someone tonight that I haven't thought of in years.  She was taken from our lives far too young...at 18 years old...we were babies.   My friend Danielle was on my mind... I'm not sure why but I just wanted her to be a part of my adult life.  Having coffee talking about our husbands and our kids.  Smiling about the old days and so hopeful of our futures.  I wanted to laugh and sing Patsy Cline while our kids played.  I missed her sweet smile and her kind nature.  I missed her goofy laugh and silly jokes.  I hadn't thought about Danielle in such a long time.  Maybe death has been on my mind too much lately, perhaps she peaked down from heaven and touched my heart to help me understand the failing health of my mother in law.  Danielle was one in a million and her star shown too bright to last here on earth.  My mother in law, Elaine, is one in a million as well.  Both characters in different ways, but still made a huge impact on my life.  Danielle, almost as much in death as in life.  Both have this magnetic personality.  When they are happy, there's nothing like it.    Elaine is a happy loving sweet friendly person.   She loves people and loves being with them.  It was amazing to watch her work a crowd at the Atlanta Motor Speedway where she and my father in law ran security.  She knew everyone and everyone knew her and loved her.

We all get off our game sometimes and down on our luck but my mother in law, no... my mom never gives up.  She's been through hell...and she's still with us.  I don't know for how much longer but regardless, her light shines bright.  My sister in law sent me a video of her and she ended the video by saying "Happy happy happy"  Now I can't say this for sure, however I know some part of that was her wanting me to know she is okay and not to worry.  She's laying her bed unable to move her legs, knowing that at any minute she could leave this earth.  At the beginning when we were able to be with her in St. Louis, MO,  she told me she was scared.  I asked her if she'd like me to pray...she did... ..and I did it!  Out loud!  I know she's in a lot of pain, and the medication might take her ability to get her words out properly.  But sometimes, in between the babble, I hear Elaine loud and clear.  In those moments I know where her heart is.  It's happy.  There's an eery peace that comes with knowing your life is nearing the end.  I've never experienced it for my own self but I've seen it in the eyes of some I love so dearly.  I've been lucky enough to be with both of my grandmothers on their way to see Jesus.  They both had the same look about them that my mom has now.  I was blessed to spend time with them on the day of their death.  Even to be with one of my grandmothers, holding her hand as she went to be with the lord.  During these times, you don't know how you will react or what you will do, losing someone who has always been there for you.  Someone who's star burnt too bright to be held here on Earth any longer.  Elaine's star always burnt too bright for this Earth.  She had a way about her...and you didn't cross her.  If you are lucky enough to be one of hers, she will fight to the end for you and then kick your ass when you got there.  She is a force to be reckoned with...still.

I remember, at a bonfire we had by the lake, when my hubby and I were showing his parents my family's cottage in Northern Michigan.  Dennis...being well.. Dennis... told his very Italian mother that I had made spaghetti and meat sauce with turkey meat.  Elaine practically jumped the fire pit to berate me for using turkey.  "No upstanding Sicilian would use turkey in their meat sauce!!  What are you doing to my boy!??"  She barked at me.  As I look to Dennis in fear, hoping he'll stand up for me, I see him and his father practically falling out of their chairs in laughter at this tiny 4'11" spitfire her son had provoked.  I barely could squeak out that I was trying to be healthy, my own parents sat stone faced at the faux-pas I had made.  They knew she meant business.  She sat back down in her chair, while uneasiness hung thick like the smoke from the campfire.  Her face softened and she looked at me with the same look she gave me right before we left her for the last time ...like I was her own.  Then she looked at the two jokers making fools of themselves howling on the other side of the fire.
She laughed and took a big draw off her smoke. "Hell, you wanted to eat healthy, should have started that way before now... look how much weight my Dennis has put on?!"
Instantly the tension left the air and the focus went off of me and back on my husband where it was rightfully deserved.  Moments like that perhaps, few and far between, made me know I was hers.  I might be her daughter in law, but when we were together, she never treated me like anything but hers. I always felt like her daughter and never like her daughter in law.

I wasn't alone in that feeling, everyone who was on her good side was like family.  She protects us all the same, like a bear who's been backed into a corner.  But she'd step away in heart beat and let the wolves take you down if you piss her off.  Wording is very important when talking to Elaine, sometimes you never know what would set her off...made it part of the fun!  She was like an attack dog on your leash, say one wrong word and you can't control her, just had to let her go and watch with partial terror and partial hilarity for her next move.

We are blessed with amazing people in our lives and sometimes, if you don't pay attention, you miss all the good stuff.  You just take all the bad and push it in front of the light at the end of the tunnel so all you see is blackness and uncertainty.  I can tell you that Elaine, my mother in law, has a unique, bright beautiful light that could so easily be taken for granted.  There's no one like her, she's one in a million and her light is too brilliant for this Earth.  Soon Jesus will take his child up to heaven and we'll only have beautiful and heart breaking memories of her.  So now after all this reflection, I understand why Danielle came to mind.  A life cut tragically too short and one well lived.  Both with so much more to give but their bodies here on earth have had enough.  I'll always think of Danielle before anyone else when I hear Patsy Cline.  I'll always think of Elaine, my mother in law who took me in as one of her own...well...I'll think of her every day.  At Christmastime(it was her favorite), when I watch a football game(she loved her Packers and her Patriots), when I hear a thick Bostonian accent(no one had a better accent than her), and especially when i'm making turkey sauce for dinner.