When my mother-in-law died eight weeks ago, she left a handful of close friends behind, who have always been like family to us “kids”. Her best friend of 65 years, J, was with us the week between mom’s massive stroke and her death. She had found mom in her bed unresponsive after mom failed to show up at her house for a class they were scheduled to attend. She was sitting next to me in the emergency room waiting area when my husband came out from meeting with the doctor to tell us the impossible news, that his healthy, active, vibrant mom would not survive. J and I held each other and cried, each of our hearts breaking for the other. My 30 years as daughter-in-law felt so small compared to 65 years of best friendship. She helped us make photo boards for the funeral and was one of a handful of people who were with us at mom’s burial.
We keep in touch via text as we did even before mom was struck down and the other evening my husband and I went to see the Downton Abbey movie with her and her husband, T. We are all big fans of the show. As she and I sat in the back seat on our way to the theater, we caught up in person as the men talked up front. Mom never watched the series and would not have gone to the movie with us had she still been here. Although I wouldn’t say she was with us, as we offer to ourselves and others when there is loss, but the 15 days from when J found mom and we laid her to rest was. You don’t go through something like that together, sitting for a week together, in a room for hours and hours, day after day, telling stories and taking turns holding hands with someone you both love, waiting for her to take her last breath, both praying she goes quickly and being terrified that she will go at all, and not form a new bond.
We had a great time, the movie was wonderful and as my husband and I drove home after dropping J and T off at their home, he said, not for the first time, “They are such good people.” When my husband had asked T to be a pallbearer, T became visibly choked up. “It would be my honor”, he replied. We’ve always had our own relationship with them but things have definitely changed. Our hearts are broken and we have filled in each others’ holes and cracks just a bit.
It’s hard to imagine a time when I won’t equate this woman with those two weeks when we lost mom and that’s okay. Together we endured the very worst thing life has to offer: death.