To the Widow’s Mother-in-law by Alex Kondratev
Dear Mom (in-law),
We have both lost someone that is irreplaceable in our lives. You a son, the one you carried in your womb for nine months, the one you brought into this world, the baby you held in your arms, had inside jokes with, the one who called you mommy and counted on you for so many years. The one you raised into the man I love—he is who I love in many ways because of you. And me a husband, the one I built a life with and shaped my world around, the one who held my hand in all the joys and sorrows of life, the man that I vowed my all to, to become one with. Our grief is so deep because this man was a part of us and now he is gone. We grieve many of the same things—his laugh, his hugs, his jokes and his talents, but in the same breath, our grief is vastly different. I know we both feel that lonely chasm deep within our bones.
In the days of living out this unexpected plan of God, I won’t always love you the way your son had a way of loving you, after all I’m not him. And I know you won’t always be able to love me in the ways he loved me, after all you’re not him. But, I do believe that we have enough of that man pulsing through our veins to be there for one another in a way that no one else can.
Mom, there is no light way to put this, we will face hard days, months and years ahead. We will each have to make decisions that we never thought we would have to make. Decisions that will impact us and change us, and for better, and sometimes worse, we won’t look the same as we used to. Tears will often take the place of laughter in our homes and family dinners will feel almost impossible. So here we are, at a fork in the road. We can hug each other and part ways with tears in our eyes leaving each to our own grief battle or like Naomi and Ruth, when faced with the death blow of son and husband, we can take the much harder road that leads to seeing beauty that comes only from winning battles of love, trust, and service.
Today, let’s choose to take the harder path, we will probably have to choose that tomorrow…and the next day too, but I believe God will honor it. Promises will be hard to keep while God is putting our lives back together, so I present these needs and resolutions to you. Please know, my resolutions to you are not exhaustive and are not conditional on you meeting my needs. When you and I fail to meet these needs and fulfill these resolutions, because we inevitably will, the promise of grace will always stand.
- Your prayers.
- Remind me that the Gospel is true—even now, even in the pain.
- Open communication—the opportunity to admit that something you have done has hurt me.
- Space to grieve— If I don’t call or text back it doesn’t mean I don’t care.
- Respect—I’ve got so many decisions to make for myself (and my kids), please respect me as head, like you would have for your son leading our relationship/family.
- Connection—be present with me (and your grandkids).
- Acceptance—If God brings the opportunity for love again, please don’t check out of my life.
- Love—I’m your family forever.
- To pray for you.
- To remind you that the Gospel is true—even now, even in the pain.
- To remember and celebrate my late husband, your son, and to remember that this will look different for each of us.
- To give the benefit of the doubt—I trust that the things you do that have hurt me aren’t done specifically to hurt me, but because you are grieving.
- To be humble—if I’ve hurt you, I want to apologize.
- To connect—You’ve already lost a son, don’t worry, you won’t lose me (or my kids).
- To be patient and then patient again.
- To be considerate—of your grief, of how I choose to honor my late husband, of how I choose to move forward, of what I post on social media.
- To be transparent—if God brings the opportunity for love again, I’ll tell you and be gentle in doing so.
- To talk it out—for all the things that come our way (grief differences, family celebrations, anniversaries, new relationships…) let’s talk it out.
- To love you—you’re my family forever.
Mom, I endeavor to honor these resolutions because I want to honor you, but more than that, I want to honor and trust God. In Ruth 2:10-12, Ruth received a blessing from Boaz, but also from God himself. She received this blessing because of all she had done for her mother-in-law, but that wasn’t all, “The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!” She received this blessing because she entrusted herself to the Lord when all around her was foreign and uncertain. She believed that God had a plan for her relationships and her life. There is so much purpose in our relationship, Mom. I, like Ruth, choose to believe that this mysterious road called grief will be better walked by your side than alone.
Your Daughter (in-law)