A Tribute to my mother-in-law, Mary Jane Lloyd.
Yesterday, my mother-in-law was buried next to her husband in a little cemetery just north of West Union, West Virginia. I had known her for forty two of her eighty long years. That’s how long I have been associated with her family, the Cecil Ford Lloyd family.
Her name was Mary Jane Lloyd, but I called her Mom.
She and her husband raised at least four kids, not counting me. Phyllis (my wife), Pamela, Ford Jr., and Scott. I was seventeen when I met the family; and though I didn’t make a good first impression (my second, third, and fourth ones weren’t all that great, either), somehow I managed to become the fifth kid.
I could write and write about my years in the Lloyd family, however I’ll try and limit my comments to just a few hundred (kidding!).
Why was she “Mom” to me?
First of all, she loved me unconditionally. Even though I hurt her by running off with her daughter before we were married, she never once reminded me of her pain. Not once. And twenty years later when I acted like a real jerk and was unfaithful to her daughter, my wife, she NEVER railed on me; though she had a perfectly good right to.
She was always interested in what I was doing. At times we would sit and visit late into the evening, as we were both night owls. She’d ask me about our church, my job, and things like that. And when I started writing books, she’d always ask me about how the new one was progressing. In other words, she treated me like I was a real person, not just her son-in-law. She was interested in ME. I was one of her kids.
Something else I’m reminded of that made a huge impact in my life. Now, it may not seem like much to you, but I knew I could get into her refrigerator any time I wanted to, and grab anything that struck my fancy. I never had to ask, unless I was grabbing something she was going to have for the next meal.
In fact, I was like a free range chicken; and mighty happy about it.
We never had to call ahead and ask if it was alright to visit. The door was always open for us, and anyone who wanted to come with us.
For forty two years I witnessed her embrace all the in-laws, grandchildren, “step-grandchildren”, and even a few “strays” here and there that found their way to her home. Her children’s friends and relatives were always welcomed, encouraged to eat a meal or two, and “call when you get home.”
She NEVER used the term “step child” or “step” anything; unless she was describing a way to get to the second floor of her big, old house.
Her favorite place to shop was Sam’s. Why? Because she didn’t know how to buy food for one or two people. And why was that? Because she always wanted to be ready for visitors, guests, strangers, and anyone else who might wander in.
Since I was grafted into the family, I have learned to express my love for others by simply saying, “I love you”. I heard it so much at Mom’s house; so much that it tenderized my heart. I learned the best time to express love is when you’re with someone, not when they’re dead and gone.
Mom didn’t sit me down at the table and preach to me about expressing my love for others. She modeled it. It’s what she did, because it was a part of her.
I’m not saying that I never saw her aggravated at me. I just can’t remember a time. Because it doesn’t matter. Once the issue was dealt with, it was dropped. Forgiven and forgotten. She sure didn’t take it to her grave.
I remember a time, about a month ago, when she needed to be moved to her wheelchair for a little while. I was needed to assist so I bent down to her and told her to give me a big hug, to wrap her arms around my neck so I could get a good grip. She smiled the best she could and faintly said, “You’re just trying to get a hug from me, aren’t you?” It melted my heart.
There’s a saying that goes like this: “As a person lives, so a person dies”. I understand it to mean that a person doesn’t change just because they are nearing the end of their earthly life. Mom is a good example of that truth.
I never heard her complain about being sick. By the time everyone found out she had stage four cancer, she had probably had it for a year or two. Instead of thinking about herself and always trying to be the center of attention, she would care for others in any little way she could.
And during her last couple of months with us, she decided she’d have someone get the birthday cards ready to be sent so no one would miss out. It was funny. Normally she was a day or two late. But she wanted to make sure other people were taken care of.
As she lay in her bed, unable to do anything for herself, she was concerned for those lifting her, that they wouldn’t hurt their backs.
No, she wasn’t a saint. You’ll find her in heaven with the rest of the redeemed. But she wasn’t a saint. She was a real live, loving person. She could be hard-headed at times, but never hard-hearted. She wasn’t perfect, but apart from the Lord, who is?
She was Mrs. Jane Lloyd when I first met her back in 1971. I was scared to death of her the first meal I ate with them. I was so nervous, I used my fork to pick up the peas on my plate and they fell off, rolling to the floor. And even though I was the kind of kid I’d never let a of daughter of mine date (if I had one), somehow she still accepted me (and so did her husband).
But when she was buried yesterday…she was Mom. And when I see her again, I’m going to run up to her, give her a hug, and say, “Hi Mom.”