When I walked into my inlaws’ house the weekend I talked about in my last blog post, the first thing I saw was a 3D ultrasound picture of my baby on the refrigerator.
It was among the pictures of the other grandchildren: my one sister-in-law’s son and daughter and my other sister-in-law’s two stepsons. I hadn’t asked the ultrasound tech for a 3D picture but she’d put the image up on the screen during my last scan. There he was, an almost 4-lb. nugget that had my nose by otherwise looked exactly like Brendan. His eyes were open, his mouth parted. I had messaged the picture to Brendan later in the afternoon. He’d sent it to his parents, who then printed it out and displayed it like the proud grandparents they are.
My mother-in-law had been planning a shower for me, to be held after the one my mom was hosting early in March. Mary couldn’t make it to that shower — she was going to be in Ireland, where she was born, with my father-in-law Frank. When I came into their house on that Valentine’s Day, she’d asked me questions about the car seat for which I’d registered. Later the next week on the phone, she’d asked if I’d cared for favors and games. I’d said no: I was pretty no fuss and felt spoiled to be having not one but two showers celebrating our son.
The shower took place on Saturday with friends and relatives from Brendan’s side of the family. It was a beautiful, classy affair, and everyone was so joyful and generous. But Mary couldn’t be there. She passed away on March 1 after a 15-month battle with cancer.
Even though she was sick, Mary’s death was quite sudden and it shocked everyone who knew her. I still feel that shock, a month later. Part of the shock is not really having accepted that she is no longer here. Her spirit was so strong on Earth that I don’t have a full sense that she’s gone. And she keeps finding little ways to let us know she’s still around.
Mary wasn’t a person who lived like she had advanced cancer. She’d traveled to Seattle and Phoenix, not to mention over to New York City to visit us several times. She’d continued teaching math courses at Montgomery County Community College. On the last weekend I saw her, she’d held a brunch for both sides of the family. She read to and sneaked sweets to my two-year-old nephew. She’d been planning a baby shower and a trip overseas. She never complained about having cancer and handled her symptoms and her treatment with quiet grace.
I never talked about it on this blog, but Brendan and I decided to move home from Australia after finding out Mary was sick in January of 2013. Moving home in June gave us nine precious months with her, especially crucial after Brendan had been away from his parents for nearly five years.
I loved Mary. She was a funny, bright, strong woman who never stopped doing things for others in ways big and small. She let me be myself, accepting even the outspoken, sometimes raunchy side. I am honored to have been her daughter-in-law for 11 months, though the time I knew her in this world was much too short. My heart continues to break for my husband, sisters-in-law, Frank, Mary’s mom and siblings, her close friends and everyone who knew her.
Before Mary’s funeral services, my one sister-in-law asked if I wanted to place the 3D ultrasound picture of our son in the casket along with photos of the other grandchildren. I hesitated at first. It’s something I would have never thought of and part of me wondered if it was appropriate. But Brendan was comfortable with the idea, so our baby’s image in utero stood in the line of three other grandsons and one granddaughter.
My feelings on religion and the afterlife are conflicted, but I’d like to imagine that somehow the souls of Mary and her grandson crossed in that in-between of Earth and whatever comes after. And I hope that she can somehow see him, the little munchkin for which she was so excited, when he makes his entry into the world.
I love you and miss you, Mary.