About five years ago, I wrote a piece about my mother-in-law. When a young woman faces the altar, she hopes against hope that she will have a good relationship with her husband’s mother, instead of the stereotypical alternative. However, I knew, going in, that my mother-in-law was going to be different. She had a loving way and optimistic outlook about her that is born from choosing the high road during instance upon instance of hardship. Today is her 83rd birthday. I started to write another piece, but I don’t know that I could improve on this one (beyond adding a current picture). So, I’m offering it to you, now, in her honor, because, well, she’s still a hero to so many. Happy Birthday Mom. You are a treasure. Thank you for loving us – me – so well.


1620510_688070101245832_391901600_nThis lovely lady is my mother-in-law, Beverly. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve been staying with her for the past week, caring for her after her shoulder-replacement surgery. There are not too many mothers-in-law for whose care a daughter-in-law would drop everything, however mine is a rare gem. Well, she’s really more than that. She’s a hero to me.

As a young married woman, she suffered several miscarriages before adopting her oldest son and carrying her second son (my husband) to term. At the suggestion of her doctor, she stopped having babies via surgery and adopted her youngest child, a daughter. Her husband suffered a stroke at 41, which ushered in 9 years of major health issues resulting in his need for care and her fulfillment of that role. At the time of his stroke, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. In those years, there was no such thing as a lumpectomy or reconstruction,  just a radical mastectomy that resulted in the loss of not only a breast, but all the lymph nodes and chest muscle on her right side.

But she survived.

At the end of his long struggle, she lost her husband and, three days later, her mother died. She was unable to attend her mother’s funeral because of her husband’s.

Not long after those deaths, she was diagnosed with cancer again, this time in her colon. She underwent chemo and radiation, and, again, she survived. Over the next decade, she was met with financial road-blocks and family challenges that she had to face head-on and without a spouse to share the burden.

Arthritis began to stake its claim on parts of her body, making a double knee replacement necessary. After a long and arduous recovery after some complications, she discovered that she had cancer yet again – this time in her remaining breast. A lumpectomy was available by this time, but the chemo and radiation still took its toll on her body. They did, however, do their job, and once again, she survived. Last year, her hip was replaced and she became very ill post-op, causing an extended stay in the hospital to lead to a nursing home and then to rehab. Now, she has a new shoulder to add to the list.

My point in telling you all this is not to have you feel sorry for her; she would hate that! The point is that she has gone through more difficulties than most and is still one of the happiest people I know. She’ll be 78 next month and is still very active in her church. She volunteers in several capacities, from serving in her church’s food pantry to manning the donuts on Sunday morning. She laughs all the time. She lives modestly but is quick to give, and has more friends (of all ages) than I can count, all of them willing to drop everything to come help her.

She was telling her physical therapist that she really identified with Mother Teresa’s comment…

“God never gives us more than we can bear…I just sometimes wish He didn’t trust me this much!”

Then she just smiled and winked.

There are many who wouldn’t blame her in the least for being angry with God for the hand that she’s been dealt. However, I think she would tell them that, regardless of what life throws at her, it’s because of Him that she’s still filled with joy, and able to face each day with a smile and a grateful heart.And, really? I think that’s what makes a hero.


“She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.” Proverbs 31:25 NIV