James and I, along with the rest of James’ family had to walk a very hard road of losing my mother-in-law. It was sudden, she wasn’t sick, and it took us all by surprise. The past two months have been surreal trying to process everything that has occurred. While it’s been heartbreaking and life-altering, I’m humbled and grateful to say God has done what He says He will do, which is to turn our mourning into joy. It’s not sudden, it’s a process, but through the tears and our hearts missing Robin, we have peace beyond understanding and unspeakable joy.
When I stood by Robin as she took her last breaths I told her she was my best friend, my second mother, who gave me the best husband a wife could ask for. I thanked her for loving me as her own, for raising her family in the Lord who in turn, has become my family. I told her how much I was going to miss her and I cannot wait until the day we’re reunited. I even joked and told her that maybe she will finally grow a few inches once she goes to heaven ;).
After James, the closest people in my life have been my mother and Robin. Robin has been my best friend for over half my life, I trusted her with our kids, more than I trusted myself. I confided in her regularly and sought her advice in almost every aspect of my life. She was quick to encourage me in everything I did and often, would show support by coming to church to hear me preach. When I shared with her how I felt the Lord leading me to a new ministry through writing, her immediate response was, “Oh, Heather, if you write how you preach you will do just fine!”
I’ve been beyond blessed to have been given two earthly mothers who love me, support me, and encourage me. The life Robin led has taught me an incredible amount. She showed me what it meant to fully live your life following Jesus every day, how to make your family a top priority by serving them and the true value of simply being kind to everyone. But, one of the most vital tools she gave me is how to break the mother-in-law stigma.
Not many can share the same feelings I have for Robin with their own mother-in-law. Over the years, I would often hear others say, “I wish I had in-laws like yours” or “I wish I was as close to my spouse’s family like you are.” Many of my friends have difficult relationships with their in-laws and it causes a lot of strife in their life. They’ve shared stories of the comments made by their in-laws, the struggles they have with their husbands not knowing how to handle the two most important women in their life, and their desire for peace and closeness that may never occur. My heart breaks for them as I see the constant struggle, the tug of war, and the burden it creates on their marriage.
Maybe that’s you. If so, I want to encourage you.
While you may never have the relationship with your mother-in-law your heart desires, that doesn’t stop you from one day being the incredible mother-in-law everyone hopes and prays for. The lack of love and support from your spouse’s family doesn’t prevent you from being a constant support and encouragement to your future or current son or daughter-in-law. While you won’t have given birth to them or even raised them, you can still have a strong influence on their life and be just as important to them as their own mother.
Currently, if you’re a mother-in-law, while I don’t know the specifics of your relationship with your son or daughter-in-law, whether it’s healthy or strained, you choosing to love and support will speak volumes and do so much more for your child and their family then you may even realize.
Maybe your son or daughter-in-law is not who you had in mind for your child. Maybe they’re distant because they’re not close with their own mother, or don’t know how to love a second one. Maybe their questionable choices worry you, or the fear of being replaced is saddening.
Friend, if this is you, love them anyway. Consistently reach out, support, and love, even when it’s hard. A relationship founded on love will be able to withstand honest conversations and growth. If the fear of being replaced and trying to find your new position in your child’s life overwhelms your mind, can I encourage you with something? You will never be replaced. No one can replace the role of mom. Your child’s heart did not forget you and replace that space with their spouse, their heart just got bigger.
The dynamics of your role in your child’s life will change as they grow, instead of seeing that as something sad, rejoice knowing you’ve done your job as a mother and that has brought them to this point of adulthood. Then, love them by loving their spouse.
I haven’t been through the stage of my children getting married to give a personal perspective, I haven’t even entered the dating stage yet. But, what I do know is I want to be as welcoming as Robin. The first time she met me she pulled me into a hug. She spent time talking to me and asking me questions for the pure purpose of getting to know me. As a teen, I would go over to visit James and would sit talking to Robin for hours. I never doubted her support for my marriage to her son, her support as me as a mother to her grandchildren, and her support to me as her daughter-in-law.
When I think about walking through the gates into Heaven I often imagine what it’s going to be like to see Jesus face to face. How alive I’m going to feel. But, I also think of the people I will finally be reunited with again. I think about looking around searching for my brother’s face and running into his arms. I think about all the things I can’t wait to tell him and to finally hear his silly laugh again. And I know Robin will be someone I’ll be eager to see again too. To hug her and know we will never be separated again.
What a glorious reunion day that will be for us all!
Matthew 22:37 says, “Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”