Lessons from Madeleine

On this day, we remember Madeleine, the best mother-in-law a girl could have.  I have learned so much from Maddy over the last thirty years and  I could never capture it all here, but I’m going to try to hit some of the highlights.

Accept Unconditionally

I watched Maddy welcome in new members of the family, one at a time.  It was like the plot of Fiddler on the Roof: First the marriages were in the family church, then another kind of church, some in no church at all.  Maddy and Johnny welcomed us all the same, with open arms and open hearts.

Maddy supported me as the first in the family to work outside the home as a mother of young children.  One day I found out, quite by accident, that this wasn’t her preference after all, that she really would rather that I was home.  I continued to work and she continued to support me, and I was even more impressed that she did it in spite of what she would have chosen for us.

Say Yes to Adventure

I was distressed to have lost my Swiss Army knife on a hike to the top of a local mountain and I really wanted to go back and try to find it.  I was not having any luck rounding up a posse to make the trek again.  Maddy heard this and said “I’ll go with you!”, so we arranged to meet one summer evening and re-do the hike.   She just said yes.  That was how she was wired.    On the way up the trail, she had us stop for a break.  I though that made sense: I was 35.  Maddy was 73.  Then she looked at me and said “We’re just going to take a break until your face isn’t quite so red.” 

Choose to Move

Maddy lived with us for four months while her house was rebuilt after a fire.  In that time, we learned what it was like to choose moving over sitting.  At any little prompt, Maddy would jump up to DO something, even if it meant looking up some history or trivia from our conversation.  I believe that this bias for motion is a major reason for her very long and very healthy life.

Eat Dessert First

Or instead.  At some point in her 80’s, Maddy started ordering in restaurants what she really wanted for dinner: an ice cream sundae.  This would be her whole dinner.  It’s what she wanted and what she wasn’t going to eat for a meal at home, so she just did it.  It made for some funny-looking dinners out, but she didn’t care and she enjoyed every last lick.

Everything Works Out For the Best

This was Maddy’s phrase – what she said and what she believed.  Yes, we all know that not every single thing in life works out for the best.  And she never meant that.  But she meant that it really does in general.  If you can embrace this, you can go with the flow and watch it all unfold.  It doesn’t mean sit by and let it happen – Maddy believed in hard work and the results that come from it.  But it means that in the end, it all works out the way it should.

Invest in Family

We all have what I picture as a “pie chart of life”, slices of what we spend our life caring about, thinking about, being about.  Maddy’s pie is almost all family.  From her happy childhood to marriage and through motherhood, family is what Maddy did.  Her legacy includes seven devoted children and their lucky spouses, 18 grandchildren who adored her, and two new great-grandchildren.  All through her life, Maddy was surrounded by love and now she leaves grieving but grateful family, embracing each other to get through a time without her.

Thank you Maddy, for everything I have learned from you!