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A Tribute to my In-laws

In this picture, she was wearing my wedding saree, the very same one I wore for my pheras and kanyadaan. Seeing her adorned in that saree for a special event was incredibly heartwarming. I couldn't help but express how beautiful she looked, and the moment became even more poignant when I saw the pictures later. Last year, I carried this saree with me, intending to wear it for Karwa Chauth, but this year, I find myself unable to summon the courage to put it on. It's as if they posed for this picture with a purpose, leaving behind a beautiful and meaningful memory.

I'm still in disbelief that they're both gone. Just three months ago, we were visiting them in India, completely unaware that it would be our final trip together. The summer of 2023 turned out to be the toughest time for us; none of the plans we made came to fruition.

We had eagerly booked our tickets, looking forward to spending 12 days with my in-laws, planning a trip to our ancestral village, and dedicating a week to my parents. We had even carefully chosen gifts for everyone, and our suitcases were packed, all set for our journey scheduled on July 5th. However, work commitments forced us to cancel the trip. The news disappointed everyone on both sides of the family, and the guilt of not being able to see them weighed heavily on us.

In mid-July, my husband suggested we go for a week, so we rebooked our tickets. This time, we managed to spend four days with my parents and another four with his parents. I find it remarkable how much I resemble my mother-in-law, and my husband takes after his father.

Like her, I appreciate the value of travel, hold strong religious beliefs, and see the divine in various forms across different faiths. We both share a positive outlook on life, a love for festivals and nature, and a drive to be productive with our time. I've inherited her sense of hospitality as well; whenever guests come over, I strive to make them feel at home, just as she did.

My in-laws are blessed with a spacious backyard adorned with four mango trees bearing the sweetest mangoes. Sadly, we had never tasted them since our visits to India never coincided with the summer season. There was one exception during my first pregnancy, but the trees bore no fruit that year.

This summer, my mother-in-law couldn't stop talking about the mangoes during our phone conversations. I expressed how much I missed Indian mangoes and told her how lucky she was. Initially, we were supposed to arrive in the first week of July, giving us hope of indulging in those delicious mangoes. However, due to our delayed arrival on July 24th, it seemed like an impossible dream.

Coincidentally, my husband's birthday fell on July 25th, and we had planned to celebrate it with his parents after a long time. The thought of enjoying those mangoes together added to the anticipation of the long-awaited family reunion.

On the 24th and 25th of July, my father-in-law's health took a turn for the worse, landing him in the hospital for a series of tests. Despite his condition, he managed to convey his joy to his son back home. In the morning, he made calls to inform everyone that his children were by his side and even mentioned feeling much better.

During those challenging days, my mother-in-law surprised us with a bowl brimming with mangoes soaked in water. Those mangoes became a constant presence in our meals, gracing our breakfast, lunch, and dinner tables for those four precious days. It felt like destiny had granted us this opportunity.

My mother-in-law was overjoyed that we could savor the fruits grown in their own backyard. Little did we know that it would be the first and last time for us to enjoy those mangoes together. In the evening, despite the trying circumstances, we went to a restaurant with her sister to celebrate my husband's birthday. It was a bittersweet moment, filled with both gratitude for the time spent together and the underlying concern for my father-in-law's health.

When it comes to my mother-in-law, there's so much to admire. She embodied resilience, hard work, optimism, and strength, making her one of the most remarkable women in my life. Even when we spoke on the phone, she never let on about her health issues or troubles. Instead, she consistently reassured us that she was perfectly fine, urging us not to worry about her.

I have a particularly cherished memory when my husband dropped me off with her and his brother's wife when I was five months pregnant and struggling with a lack of appetite. That night, as he left to return to work, she approached me with a warm hug and comforting words: "Don't worry if he's not here with you now, but his mother is here. I will take care of you." At that moment, both of us cried, and tears flowed freely.

She went above and beyond to take care of me during that time. She made sure I ate nutritious meals on time, providing me with ample milk and fruit for energy. While my sister-in-law managed the household, preparing delicious and wholesome meals, my mother-in-law personally walked to the dairy to get fresh milk for me. I recall having three full glasses of milk every day, thanks to her efforts.

To ease my fears, she slept with me on my bed, understanding my apprehension of sleeping alone. She accompanied me to my doctor's appointments and even encouraged daily walks, showing genuine concern for my well-being. Her constant presence and care made a significant difference during that challenging period.

She once confided in me, expressing her sense of not receiving the recognition she deserved. No matter how many kind deeds she performed, people tended to remember her for the negative aspects, while her positive contributions went unnoticed.

Her life was marked by remarkable resilience and strength as she shouldered the responsibility of raising three children while my father-in-law served in the army. I often urge my husband to carry forward the enduring positivity she exuded throughout her lifetime. Her professional career was equally impressive, culminating in her retirement as an Assistant Principal, known for her ability to get things done effectively.

One particular memory stands out - she obtained my son's passport within days after his birth, showcasing her resourcefulness and efficiency. Her legacy is filled with countless acts of kindness and goodwill that I remember fondly. It's heartbreaking to think that she had hoped to live to 100 years, yet she left us far too soon.

My father-in-law was a fascinating blend of features, his appearance hardly typical of the Indian stereotype. I often playfully teased my husband that there must have been some British genes in their lineage, given India's history of colonization. He was meticulous about his food, sleep, and exercise regimens, a trait likely honed during his years in the army. Despite the passing years, he managed to maintain a youthful appearance, boasting golden hair, fair skin, and a medium build. His disciplined lifestyle and remarkable personality were truly exceptional.

We marveled at his ability to adhere to such rigorous schedules, knowing well that it was a quality we could never fully inherit. As I observed him, I often wondered if my husband and I would be able to age as gracefully as he did, maintaining both his health and personality with such finesse.

I have fond memories of when he visited Kenya for our son's first birthday party, spending three wonderful weeks with us. During his stay, we explored the beauty of the country together, embarking on a memorable wildlife safari. It was during this time that I truly bonded with him, and our relationship grew stronger in the last few years. He seemed genuinely delighted to be with us, cherishing every moment of his stay. Whenever he visited, he was reluctant to leave, even a day earlier than planned.

Managing his diet due to IBS, he had specific dietary requirements, which influenced our eating habits and routines over the years. In a way, we gradually adapted to his diet and lifestyle choices. I often joked that he and I seemed to share the same stomachs, as I, too, dealt with issues of indigestion.

We are grateful that we were in India to celebrate Diwali with them, and then my FIL spent three months with us in the winter. Then, we again saw him in July. My husband was very close with his father. He's finding it challenging to lead an everyday life.

We are incredibly thankful that we had the opportunity to celebrate Diwali with them in India and that my father-in-law spent three memorable months with us during the winter. Our time together was precious, creating cherished memories. We were fortunate to see him once more in July.

The bond between my husband and his father was exceptionally strong, making it especially difficult for him to navigate through everyday life without his presence. His absence has left a void that's proving to be incredibly challenging to fill.

As Diwali approaches, I can't help but reminisce about the special moments I shared with my mother-in-law, especially since her birthday fell on this festive occasion. Last year, we ventured to the market together to get Mehndi done. We proudly displayed our hands adorned with intricate designs, capturing the memory in a picture. The following day, we excitedly compared whose Mehndi had turned darker, sharing a lighthearted moment.

Despite feeling tired, she pushed herself to join in the festivities throughout the day, all because I was wearing a saree. Her determination and love for our traditions were truly inspiring. This year's Diwali will undoubtedly be a challenging time for our family, as her absence will be keenly felt, casting a somber tone over the celebrations.

Indeed, I firmly believe that wherever they are now, my mother and father-in-law are showering their blessings upon our family. Our love for them runs deep, and our shared memories will forever hold a special place in our hearts. We will continue to cherish those moments, finding solace in the love and warmth they brought into our lives.