"I'm Martha Wilkerson. So very nice to meet you." I remember hearing those words come from this finely dressed lady in a purple and black dress. I could hear the thick southern accent in her friendly tone. I had no idea (OK well maybe a tiny one :) ) on that spring day back in March 2007 that I had just shook hands with my future Mother in law. She taught the Sunday School lesson and it was very well planned out, crafted beautifully complete with hand outs! Impressive! Reminded me of my own Mother.
2 1/2 years later Martha became my Mother in law when I married her only son, (in whom she is very well pleased!) Bob. We've been married almost 10 years and have 2 daughters, twins, 3 1/2 year old Chloe and Hannah.
From day one Martha looked for ways to show me that she cared. She took interest in the things I loved, asked me questions about things I was doing or getting into, supported me, promoted me, encouraged me & prayed for me She loved me & modeled grace in all circumstances and so much more. Some things I don't think I've even grasped yet.
I know, as I type this, it's awfully quiet above me. You see, I am a night owl. I get all kinds of creative and energized the minute it's bedtime! Crazy, I know! Martha, in these later years has had trouble sleeping and getting comfortable. Many nights while I am up I hear her movement
above me. I can always tell it's her because I hear her walker rolling with her as she slowly walks. Some nights I hear her in the kitchen making a snack or trying to put dishes away. Some nights she's just sitting alone in the dark. Many times I've gone upstairs to see what she's up to and we end up finishing dishes or laundry together or just sitting and talking.
But tonight? Nothing. It's quiet. It's dark. My Father in law is quietly asleep back in his bedroom. My babies and husband are asleep. It's just me and the clicking of my keyboard.
Martha is gone. As I type this I have to stop to let the tears flow. I keep thinking at any moment I'll hear her yell down to me (well she didn't really yell but she had to raise her voice for me to hear!) and ask if I am OK or if I need something.
She left us last Saturday night. An infection came on suddenly and her body shut down. She fought, oh did she fight to stay with us. But, Jesus had other plans. His ways are higher, after all. Even when we don't get it...
These last few years for her have been hard. She has lived in constant pain. But she has kept going and kept fighting in the midst of emotional and physical distress. My Father in law, Royce, has been her care giver 24/7 and done a remarkable job. He deserves thunderous applause- he has kept his wedding vows and honored his bride- even to her death.
I haven't always been the best daughter in law. Sometimes that relationship has been hard for me. I am very close to my parents..... like really close. My family has always been. Much like the way it's been for my husband and in laws. So, for me, even though I've loved my in laws and love being part of the Wilkerson family- I've at times struggled with how to be a good daughter in law without feeling like I'm abandoning my parents. It may seem odd to you or maybe even silly, I don't know. Maybe I should ask a professional!?! :) But, at times I failed to be a loving daughter in law.
Last Saturday when we knew the end was coming I went in alone to talk with Martha. It was difficult and hard to do but I knew I had to or I would have regrets. I went in and told her how proud I was of her for being so strong all these years. She worked and taught school until she was 75!! Unheard of anymore! I thanked her for loving me always. I assured her that I would take care of my husband, her son, all my days and do my best to honor him and love him like she did Royce all these years. I told her we would take care of Royce, too, that he would be loved and OK. I also assured her that her granddaughters, my daughters, would ALWAYS be loved, taken care of and that she wouldn't be forgotten....ever.
I thanked her for opening her heart to adoption. She and my Father in law were not able to have biological children. She and I talked about this a couple of times and I know it was painful for them. Yet, they said "Yes!" to a little 3 year old boy who desperately needed to be loved and cared for. How grateful I am. Oh, so grateful. Because she and Royce put their desires aside and obeyed the voice of God and pursued foster care and adoption I have my little family. Wow!
Before I finished ,I told her I was sorry for the times I had fallen short.... that she has taught me a whole lot and that her prayers for me these past 12 years are gold. I will miss those more than anything, I think.
I told her to run to Jesus, find my baby boy, Benjamin, my Grandma has him, I know. But, she'll share! Find Benjamin and tell him all about his Mama and Daddy, and his big sisters and his family. Take care of him til I get there. I think she's already found her grandson and is showing him off to her sister, Mary, her brothers, her Mama and a host of friends!
Martha, you made it. You made the trip. It still doesn't seem quite real. But, you're gone from this earth. Your body is brand new and you can SEE, you can WALK, you can RUN! You can do cartwheels even! :) I will miss you. I already do.
Royce and Bobby miss you but they are true gentleman- champs in my book. Handling things with dignity, grace and strength. You would be proud. I told Chloe and Hannah Monday morning that Jesus decided to take you home to heaven. They've had questions and I know they will have for a long time and that's OK!
In a few hours we will gather with friends and family here in Nashville and celebrate you. I already asked God to let you listen in for a bit. We're going to head down to Georgia and celebrate you there, too. So many people love you. I have read message after message from people expressing their deep love and respect for you. I am not surprised one bit.
I'm thankful for the 12 years I've had with you. They've been just about the best years of my life. So, Mother in law, Well done. I have no doubts, reservations or wonders where you are. Because of Jesus we will be with you a lot longer than we will be without you- that's our blessed hope!
I love you. I didn't tell you enough but I love you.
Wait for me by the gate....we're coming someday very soon~
Forever your daughter in law,