There is incredible grief when losing a beloved parent. The passing of the second parent just seven months later causes unimaginable sorrow.
After the funeral and paperwork, there is another level of heartache when preparing the parent’s home for sale.
I was blessed with wonderful, caring parents-in-law. They kindly accepted me into the family when I married their oldest son in 2000, even flying from Austin to my hometown in Michigan to celebrate the marriage. My mother-in-law (MIL) easily became a dear friend with her good nature and warmheartedness. She spoiled my two boys and was a gracious hostess for holiday gatherings.
From 2020, we noticed that her health became more compromised, due to the complication of diabetes. When her husband died in August 2021 after 56 years of marriage, seeing her grief was heartbreaking.
About three months later, we planned, with her direction, to move things she wanted to keep at her middle son’s home, where she planned to permanently reside. However, health issues, plus three hospital stays, delayed that mission. She passed away in March this year.
The slower process we planned of emptying the house soon went at full speed. Due to a softening real estate market in our area, we were advised to get the house up for sale before June. My husband and I were the ones to lead the mission, as well as arrange an estate sale.
Packing up, donating, and setting aside items to sell or give to family was fairly unemotional. However, when I began cleaning the master bedroom, I became uneasy and felt intrusive sorting through my mother-in-law’s things. Yet, it became a blessing – I discovered some things about her that I didn’t realize in the past 20 years but will now always remember.
She was a cherished caregiver.
My MIL cared for other children in her home for many years, often three at a time. When I had my youngest son, we often visited so he could play with one of the other boys she babysat.
Going through a box of cards, I unearthed Christmas cards and thank you cards from parents who cherished my MIL and the loving care she gave their children before they went to kindergarten. Some continued sending Christmas cards and photos, updating my MIL on the kids’ progress.
She loved to shop.
I remember when visiting my MIL that she was always watching the QVC Channel, her favorite shopping outlet! As I sorted her room, I recognized many QVC products and brands in her bathroom and closet. And like many women, she loved shoes. I found 30 boxes of shoes that were new or worn only once. This was in addition to 50 or more pairs I saw in another closet.
Yet she was always generous. My boys were always treated to trendy new clothes or an updated backpack for school if they needed one. Birthdays were always remembered, and Christmas wishes granted.
Her favorite color was purple.
As children, we ask a new friend an important question: “What’s your favorite color?” It’s a shame this isn’t something we ask when we are older. I didn’t know my MIL’s favorite color – until now.
The answer began to present itself as I was sorting a stack of quilts and other bedding. All with various shades of purple. I then realized this color was already in many places in the home, such as the flower arrangements in the bedroom and living room, clothes in her closet, and jewelry.
One of my MIL’s flower arrangements, now a part of our home decor.
She still flirted with her husband in later years.
Going through her considerable accumulation of paper and cards, I found many cards that my in-laws gave each other for birthdays and holidays. Some included my MIL’s handwritten notes of love and flirtation. What a symbol of undiminished love for each other after many years together. They have always been a wonderful example of marriage to us.
Collecting family memories was important.
In addition to cards given to each other, other memories were kept. Photo memories were significant, evident by the many boxes and albums of photos she kept. We found a treasure trove of the letters she kept when her husband was in the Army and stationed in Korea for a time.
A reminder of how grateful I am for my husband was finding the letters, postcards, and photos he took time to mail to his mom while he was in the Marines and away from home.
She had a celebrity crush.
On the inside closet door, there was a hanging shoe organizer. When I removed it, there was, taped to the door, an autographed picture of Ruben Ramos.
Ramos, an American Tejano music performer, formed the band “The Mexican Revolution,” popular in the 70s and 80s. He was quite handsome in this photo, so I can understand the crush!
The autographed picture from the closet door.
Today, the house is renovated and on the market. There have been three estate sales and multiple trips to charities to dispense her belongings. It was hard work but happy that others will be able to now use her things.
For my husband, although flooded with memories at each turn, greatly honored his parents by lovingly and tirelessly updating their home. I am proud of his dedication to them and the family home.
Going through my MIL’s estate was not just a necessary process — it was also a discovery of more things to learn about her and a unique healing process for me. I was gifted with more to love and admire about her.
If you are grieving over a loved one or other loss, allow God to bind your wounds of grief with His special love and care.