Thursday, November 28, 2013

Clean, Happy, & Full of Love

I am Marlene's son-in-law, though since we met exactly 10 years ago this month, she and Verl have felt like a second set of parents.  Since early Sunday morning when we received the news of Marlene's passing, I have been trying to make sense of it all.  With Mary, Marlene's youngest daughter and my wife, we have been asking all the questions like how, why, why now, etc.  When my father passed away about 3 years ago, I asked all the same questions, some of which still remain unanswered.  There is, however, many answers to be found in reflecting on the person we knew and loved.  That is why I wanted to add something to what has been and will be written/said about Marlene.  In reflecting on Marlene's life and my acquaintance with her,  I have realized again how privileged I was to know her.  She was an amazing person and she gave her all to her family.

As often happens in reflecting on the past, I have taken out the rose colored glasses and suddenly, even the few things that used to bug me are things I already miss. For instance, since the time I met Marlene, and from what Mary tells me, from the dawn of time, Marlene has been a cleaner.  She could not rest until her house was so clean and perfect that it put any Martha Stewart or Country Living magazine to shame.  I think she was one of the only people I know who had the carpet cleaners on speed dial.  Everything was in its place and beautiful all the time. Interestingly, though, her grandkids were always the exception.  They could spill, carry toys everywhere, and even, heaven forbid, eat a cook cook (Nana-ese for cookie) in the living room.

The cleaning part only really ever annoyed me when, while staying with them, she would begin vacuuming outside our room at 6:00am sharp!  The thing that was more challenging for me to get used to was that she insisted on everyone eating all of her food even if it meant rupturing internal organs to make room.  "There's still a lot of food over here, I don't want any of it left," she would say.  Then just when you thought you were done, out came the chocolate cake and ice cream, which was served directly to you in mountainous proportions. Now don't get me wrong, Marlene's cooking could not be beat and I loved it. But I spent the first year of my marriage thinking that if I didn't eat 3 months worth of food in one sitting, that I would offend her, and Mary would leave me... okay, not really, but still.

I have thought a lot about those two details and determined that they are a perfect microcosm for who Marlene was.  She lived a clean and organized life.  It was essential that she have all of her priorities in the right place.  The most important things were to be active in Church, live the teachings of Jesus Christ, love her family unconditionally and completely, and serve others with all of herself... oh and watch Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, X-Files, Close Encounters, and BSU football... even when they loose.

I remember being chastised on pretty much every occasion we visited. "No one cleans up here, I will do it, you sit down and enjoy yourself." This even occurred at her own birthday celebrations. If you tried to give her gas money for coming out to babysit or a gift card as a thank you, you could bet you or someone else it the family would be getting it back.  She lived to serve and found true joy in being constantly engaged in helping everyone in her family be clean, happy, and full of love. She let her grandkids get away with things, because of the third point: She wanted everyone to be full.  Full of food, full of God's Spirit, full of love, full of fun, and full of the rich blessings of life and family.

The interesting thing about those rose colored glasses is that in this instance, with Marlene, when I take them back off again, there isn't any difference.  She was one of the best women I have ever known (Right up there with Mary and my own Mom, just in case they read this) and loosing her is a terrible tragedy for all who knew her.  Although, it's more of a tragedy for those who never got to.  I know that she is smiling down on us now as she waits for her family to be reunited in Heaven.  Though she still might cringe a bit if one of us forgets to take our shoes off or leaves too many leftovers in the fridge on Thanksgiving.  So on this day of giving thanks, our thoughts will be turned to one person to whom all of us owe so much gratitude.

We Love You Mom!  --- Ben Hazlett.