Monday, November 19, 2007

Happy Birthday Shigeko

Yesterday would have been my mother in law's 81st birthday. Would have been, because she passed away just over one year ago. We buried her on her 80th birthday.

She was diagnosed with hepatitis C almost 15 years ago. Over the last several years of her life she also battled liver cancer. And battle she did- she was a fighter. After living through World War II Japan, and having lost all her remaining family, she was a Survivor. She was determined not to let anything defeat her- even death. By sheer will she lived with a diagnosis that usually means death in 3-6 months- for 3 years.

I struggled with her for most of my early years of marriage. I thought she was too controlling (maybe that was the pot calling the kettle black?) and resented when she would ignore my wishes- especially regarding my children. Her only grandchildren.

As her health declined, she relied more heavily on my husband, her only child. J was having to make frequent 5 hour round trips to Sacramento to help her. As her mind began to deteriorate, due to the disease, we began discussing the need to move her out of her home. We moved her into an assisted living facility close to us, in June of 2006. Frankly, she was not happy with us at the time, but it had become a safety issue. Even with hired help coming to her home, she simply needed more help. We knew as well, that it would only get worse...

I knew that moving her down here was going to be a mixed blessing. While it was good to have her close, it also meant that I was taking on a huge job with coordinating doctor's visits, medications, procedures etc. As busy as my life was as a stay at home mother of three- this was adding a whole new dimension. J was involved as well, but he had used most of his vacation and personal time up with all the trips up to Sacramento earlier in the year. So he took on the role of dutiful son- visiting her after work and frequently taking her to the Japanese market for her favorite treats.

At the time that we began moving her to the Bay Area, my annual Tuesday AM Bible Study group was wrapping up for the year (we break over the summer). At our last meeting, we shared prayer requests for the summer. Knowing that I would be investing a huge amount of time in my mother in law- I asked that the Lord would soften my heart towards her. Specifically, I asked that I would not resent her or the time I would need to spend taking her to doctors etc, but that it would be an act of love.

It was still difficult, but God answered that prayer. So much that when she did pass away, I was surprised by the depth of grief that I felt. Even still today...

So happy birthday, Shigeko. I hold onto the hope that we will see her again on day in heaven- where there is no hepatitis, no cancer, no sadness.

Only joy.

1 comment:

Llama Momma said...

What a beautiful, honest tribute. Thank you for sharing it.