Several years before she died, my mother-in-law asked me to name my favorite Bible story. I told her it was the story of Ruth. Not too many moments before we’d been having a heated argument about something insignificant – not a unique experience. My answer, the Bible story chronicling the love between a daughter-in-law and mother-in-law, left her speechless – definitely a unique experience!
By the time I’d married her youngest son, she’d been a widow for more than a decade. Her husband, a handsome Naval officer, died at age 54 after a series of heart attacks that began when he was just 32-years-old. So, as her friends were making travel plans with their retired spouses, my mother-in-law was learning to live alone for the first time in her life. In the eyes of those around her, she grew stubborn and hard-to-please. She was just as Naomi must have been to have changed her name to Mara … bitter.
My mother-in-law was a typical Southern woman, accustomed to a rigidly-structured, matriarchal society. There were strict rules: “when ironing a dress shirt start with the sleeves first” or “homemade pie crusts are best.” As a newlywed and her next-door neighbor, at first I would quietly listen and then do whatever I pleased. (Someone had to keep the dry cleaners and grocery stores in business!) But later, I grew more confident. If she had a strong opinion on a topic, I had an equally-strong-but-opposite opinion. We argued about everything from careers to wall colors. (My poor husband!)
When she developed cancer, I was given “the opportunity” to help care for her. I took that opportunity with much fear and trembling. As I watched her valiantly win that long battle against cancer, my attitudes changed. What I thought was stubbornness was actually courage and tenacity. What I took for offensiveness really meant she trusted me enough to be candid. Five years later, when she lost her battle to congestive heart failure, I realized that being able to care for her had been a gift from God. She had become my friend.
I still miss her. I even miss our arguments. As I write this, I wonder, could Ruth have been strong enough to make it in a foreign land without Naomi? I don’t think so.
Here is my mother-in-law’s recipe for lemon chess pie. A little sour, a little bitter, but oh-so-sweet and worth the trouble!
Lemon Chess Pie
1 cup of sugar
½ stick of margarine or butter
Juice and grated rind of 1 lemon
Pinch of salt
Unbaked pie crust
Cream butter and sugar in mixer. Add unbeaten eggs, one at a time. Then, add juice and rind together with salt. Pour into pie crust and bake slowly for 20 – 30 minutes at 300 degrees. Makes one pie.
Your Turn: What about you? Do you have any Lemon Chess Relationships?