They lived about 5 miles away from us, but the wall and checkpoints kept us from seeing each other as often as we used to. I cannot attend the "azza" (funeral reception) to be with the rest of the family, because I don't have the papers to pass the checkpoint. So I am going to remember her here, with my 2 or 3 readers.
I have seen many marriages strained to the breaking point by mothers-in-law, but mine was only benefited by her presence. She was a special lady, with a quiet faith, courage and strength that I hope I can emulate. I felt accepted by her from the day we met. My husband and I met and married in America, and the first time I came here I was scared that she wouldn't like or approve of me. But she was one of those, unfortunately all too rare, mothers that assumed that if her son loved me, I must be ok. I didn't speak any Arabic beyond the words needed for my prayers and salams, and she never spoke any English. But she always showed a concern for my comfort through her actions. If my husband and I had a dispute, she always urged him to be patient with me, and sometimes she actively took my side. She treated me as much like a daughter as she could, considering we couldn't talk to each other easily.
You are supposed to try and forgive someone who dies of any hurt they have caused you, so I tried to think of any old anger or resentment I had against her to forgive, but I couldn't think of any. The closest I think I was to being angry with her was when we first moved over here, when my oldest was just a toddler. I had learned a "tough love" sort of parenting, where rules had to be set and schedules maintained. In America, I had been advised to set a bed time for my little one, and stick to it, which I did. The idea was to follow a certain routine each night, put him to bed, and leave the room. If he cried a little bit, say good night again from the door, and leave. This was to teach regular habits and order. It worked fine in the US, but it's hard to explain changing timezones to a baby! My Mother-in-law had no patience with the "leave him cry a bit" school of parenting. The second he made a noise, she would be at the bedroom door, and calling me. I compromised on that one, and sat I with my son until he fell asleep, but he did eventually learn to adjust to the new schedules. I still think the family tends to spoil the kids a bit, letting them stay up too late and be little princes and princesses, but I couldn't hold that against my Mother-in-law. How can you be angry with someone whose only fault is that she loves your child so much she can't stand to hear him cry?
When I came, I wasn't sure what I was supposed to call my mother-in-law, so I called her by her "kunya." (ie "the mother of so-and-so," a polite form of address in Arabic.) There is a word for mother-in-law, "hamaati," but she thought that and the kunya were to formal and impersonal, and insisted that I call her "mart 'ami," "my aunt." (or more literally, "my uncle's wife") I will miss Mart'Ami's face, I loved the very lines in it. As I get older, I hate every new line I see appear on my face, but I always thought that every wrinkle in her face was beautiful. Even when she was asleep, the lines on her face showed that she was a woman that smiled a lot, and loved a lot. It amazes me that the lines on her face showed the joy and beauty of her spirit, when her life was often so hard. She was born during the British Mandate, and lived through war after war. She had 10 children, but her youngest daughter was killed in an explosion in 1968. She would have been my age. My mother and father-in-law were always religious, but they weren't the type running around yelling "haraam, haraam" all the time. They are both examples of patient devotion. Praying and fasting were the steady rhythms of their lives.
I hope I can live up to her example.
Oh Allah! Surely Mart 'ami is under your protection,and in the rope of your security, so save her from the trial of the grave and from the punishment of the fire. You fulfill promises and grant rights, so forgive her and have mercy on her. Surely You are the Most Forgiving, Most Merciful.