Oct 10, 2007

Legacies and Monuments

By Betsy Love

This summer my mother-in-law's 90th birthday became the topic of discussion. For most of her life she has never wanted us to make much of her birthdays. No parties, no gifts, nothing. All she wanted from her children was a phone call, and what she wanted to hear, was not the usual "happy birthday," but rather, "Tell me about yourself. What are you doing these days? How are you?" The conversations usually centered around us, not the birthday girl. That's why it came as such a shock when she asked for a birthday party for her 90th. We were ecstatic! Now we could honor this grand lady with a celebration she deserved. The families made plans to travel to Orem, Utah.

A few weeks, my sister-in-law asked us to chip in on a gift for Mom. Of course, we would be happy to go in on a gift, since it would be the first one in years. We eagerly waited to hear what sort of item Mom wanted. When Loretta said, "Mom wants a head stone," we nearly fell over.

"A head stone?" I asked my husband. "That's what she really wants?" I couldn't believe she would ask for something so morbid. I thought we were celebrating her life. DeWalt explained to me that his dad's headstone (he'd been buried over 16 years ago) is crumbling and has not held up well at all. Still the thought of a head stone made me shudder. Why not one of those digital photo frames where you can program a slide show for family viewing. I balked at the idea, but knew that Mom's practicality would light on the idea of something solid like this.

The weekend of the party arrived. We showed up on her doorstep a day early so that we could steal a little visiting with her without the mob. Sarah, her granddaughter (my daughter) brought her violin along and played for her, and then Sarah played some selections on the piano. The boys shared their activities with her. Instead of Mom being the center of attention, all she wanted was for us to tell us and show us what we had been up to. Before we left she went to a back room and brought out a step stool DeWalt (her little boy) had made when he was in junior high and gave it to him. That stool has seen numerous little feet, and the worn spot where they stood attests to the legacy of lessons taught from this loving mother. Who would have thought that a project made by a 13 year old boy would have literally stood the test of time?

The next afternoon, between conference sessions we gathered at Chuck-O-Rama, a buffet restaurant. Over 50 of her posterity gathered in a back room where we honored her. As I thought about the head stone she had requested, I realized that this truly would be a gift of love. This enduring piece of granite will stand as monument to my husband's parents of the legacy they leave behind.

The little stool now resides in my bathroom for other little feet who will be spending Friday night with me. A small legacy compared to the headstone, but my own little monument to the legacy I want to leave for my posterity.


  1. The things people ask for themselves are always interesting. My mother and sister want impractical, classy gifts; my father wants nothing. I'm like your MIL, give me something practical and enduring like the stool and yes even the headstone.

  2. What a beautiful tribute to an amazing lady. Makes me want to be more like her. Is her life history recorded as well?

  3. Your mother-in-law sounds like an amazing woman, Betsy. I agree with Anna. It makes me want to be more like that, too.

    LOL...One Christmas, my parents announced that they were giving a group gift to all of us kids. They had purchased their funeral packages, including one burial plot. Whoever dies first gets the bottom bunk! Mom and Dad said they knew we wouldn't have done it that way out of respect, but they claimed that since they would be dead, they didn't mind sharing space. It saved them a great deal of money and besides, they believe in togetherness.

  4. Kari--I'm with your parents! Except that it would be just like Derrill to die first on purpose so he could have the bottom bunk.

    Betsy--what a nice posting! Thanks for giving us this peek into your family's celebration. I loved it!

    And...am I the only one that wishes she had thought up the name Chuck-O-Rama?


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