A fond goodbye to Eleanor, my mother-in-law

My 83-year-old widow mother-in-law recently passed away at her home in Augusta, West Virginia.  The older I become, the more I recognize God's hand in everything.  Three years ago, after Mary's dad passed away, we decided to relocate from Florida to be closer to her mom.  We have enjoyed three years of family reunions, birthdays, and Christmases with her.

She was a feisty World War II generation kind of woman who didn't do a lot of complaining.  She simply did whatever needed to be done for her family and people in need: adding more water to the soup, converting a large bathroom into a bedroom for relatives who needed a place to stay.  She ran a food bank from her home.  She organized and taught home-school computer classes for needy kids, for which she received President Bush's "A Thousand Points of Light" award.

In their elder years, she and Mary's dad partially raised kids who needed parents.  An avid reader, she taught her grandchildren how to read before they entered kindergarten.  We are still learning about lives she touched positively.

I enjoyed doing little maintenance jobs for Eleanor.

A few months ago, she asked me to repair a shed that had rotted at the bottom.  Barely able to walk even with her walker, I thought it was odd that she insisted on struggling to make her way outside to see my finished repair job.

"That looks really good," she said.  Then she tried to give me crumpled money she had hidden in her hand.  I said no several times.  But she was determined to pay me.  Over the years, I learned not to argue with Eleanor.  The money was a love gift.  Secretly paying me for my work was her way of bonding with me.  It was our secret, although I did tell Mary.

Lloyd Marcus, The Unhyphenated American