Monday, February 20, 2017

Yep, you're a real piece of work

By Monica Vest Wheeler

You’re a real piece of work. You know that, don’t you?

You’re a patchwork of people, sewn together with many colors and textures and strengths of thread. Your DNA isn’t your only claim to fame of uniqueness. It’s also the people who have walked alongside, behind and in front of you that make you one of a kind.

Every January and February, I get a little, well, okay, a lot sentimental about one of the individuals who carried a big needle and helped sew parts of me together in ways that I didn’t fully appreciate until after she had left this earth far too soon.

After losing my dad in December, I thought about the power of my mom-in-law, Janice, who celebrated her birthday every January the day before her oldest child, Roger, my husband, marked his big day. And now I remember February 12 since she passed away in 2000 from a long-term disease that robbed her of physical vitality, but never her true and spunky spirit.

I’ve often told Roger that I wouldn’t be who I am without him and his mom who took me in as one of her own from the moment we met when I was only 16 and had never been kissed by anyone other than her son. Janice is the person who taught me the gift of one-on-one conversation because she loved to talk. Oh, that woman could talk about anything and everything, and her voice still echoes clearly and loudly in my soul for all of eternity, along with her spontaneous laughter.

With the loss of a parent, I guess that serves as a time of reflection and examination of the core of our very existence. That is where that patchwork quilt of life comes in. I’ve revisited not only memories of my dad but of Janice as well, remembering her folksy sayings and life lessons served with love and respect and deep insight.

Janice gave me a special sense of confidence and reminded me how much my parents loved me, even at those times when I couldn’t understand them. In the quarter-century that I knew and loved this woman, we never had a cross word or conversation that put any distance between us. I only made one strict request of her through the years: don’t smoke around my baby. She obliged, at least in those early years … as it was the one nasty habit she never could kick, even to her dying day.

She was a one-of-a-kind mother-in-law who vowed to take me in the settlement if her son and I ever divorced. And she reminded me many times that I didn’t follow through on my promise to give her my son since I wanted a girl so badly. Well, I had to give the kid a chance …

I like to think that Janice has continued to mend me in countless ways from her beachside seat in heaven. I’ve even suggested to myself that her death probably saved my life when I fell apart and finally acknowledged the depression that had been gnawing at me for so many years. Sometimes all the parts of us have to crumble before we can clearly see all the pieces individually and reconstruct the puzzle as a whole.

Who are the people in YOUR life who have provided the textured fabrics that make you who you are? What did they give you? Where would you be without them?

I am comforted by the vision that Janice was among the welcoming committee for my dad when he arrived in heaven in December. And now he’s getting to know her even better and they're creating an even more amazing patchwork of love up above …