This is a photo of my mother in law. Her name is Esterina. I know all of the jokes: that if you rearrange the letters in mother in law you spell “Woman Hitler”, and “behind every successful man stands a surprised mother in law”, and the ever popular: “I really miss my mother in law, I just wish I could remember where I buried her”.
I did bury my mother in law. Twelve and a half years ago, I stood next to my husband and watched his heart shatter as he lowered his mum’s coffin into the ground. I have missed her every day since.
In the newspaper we wrote: “she simply lived for those she loved, and those she loved, remember”. This was Esterina in a nutshell. She was a woman who loved her children fiercely and without apology. We may not have always agreed on things, but I was never in any doubt of her love for me.
How I wish her days in this world were not limited to a mere 54 years of life.
There are so many things I wish.
I wish she had been able to hold her grandchildren. I was pregnant with my eldest son when she died. Her goal was to live long enough to see his arrival into this world. The bastard thief that is Ovarian Cancer stole that dream from her. I always tell my boys how if their Nonna had been able to hug them they would have felt her unconditional love in every cell of their being. I have told them she is hugging them from Heaven.
I wish I had listened more. She had so much to say and I was so young when she died. Having migrated here from Italy in her early twenties, her English was not always perfect. Often she made words up, and we would laugh together. So many people didn’t listen to her. Her last words were “love each other, stick together”. We listened to this. Mum: your son, your daughter, your son in law and daughter in law: we love each other. We have stuck together. We will not forget your wishes.
I wish she were here to shield us from the storm. Now that her husband has died and left a devastating mess for his children to deal with, we feel her loss even more keenly. If she were here, the mess wouldn’t have been made in the first place. If she were here, she would not allow other members of the family to treat her children in such a cruel, spiteful way. If she were here, her grandchildren would only know the pure joy their very presence can evoke in a grandparent, not the confusion of being ignored, disregarded, and made to feel they don’t matter.
So, this is my mother in law. Her name is Esterina.
She will always matter.
Oh mum, how we miss you.