Thank you to the mother-in-law I never met

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And suddenly you just know…It’s time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings. ~ Meister Eckhart.

Thank you to the mother-in-law I never met on the occasion of my husband’s 60th birthday.

My husband’s mom died suddenly when he was seventeen – just one month before we started dating. Over the years I heard countless stories and saw many pictures of this woman whose life was cut short at age 49.

One story I hear almost every year at this time is the story of Chuck’s family’s emigration from Italy to America in 1956. While emigration to the US could be many people’s story, his is unique in a couple of ways. First of all, his parents and four siblings were scheduled to travel at a later time, but plans changed, and they ended up coming to America on a ship that docked on May 12, 1956. The ship they were originally slated for was the SS Andrea Doria which collided with another ship off the coast of Nantucket, Massachusetts on July 25, 1956 and resulted in the death of 46 people who were on board.

An opportunity presented itself for the family to travel earlier, so they took the opportunity. No big deal right? Well it was a very big deal because Chuck’s mom was pregnant with Chuck (her fifth of six children) and was too far along to be travelling by ship to the US. The family did not want to separate or take the chance of missing the opportunity to come to America. So they told a little fib as to how far along his mom really was in her pregnancy. She wore a big coat to hide her size whenever she left her cabin.

Five days after arriving in their new homeland, Chuck’s mom gave birth to her fifth child, her fourth son. The joke for many years was since he was born in the US he could be president some day!

So today – 60 years and five days after that memorable arrival, I thank the mother-in-law I never had the chance to know for her bravery and determination, and for raising such a fine man. She was determined to keep her family together and make the sojourn to this new land as a complete unit. She was brave to make that trip being so far along in her pregnancy. I can’t imagine worrying everyday about the chance of going into labor and delivering a baby on board ship. Most importantly, she raised a son who knows (among countless other things) the value of hard work, that family comes first, and that love is eternal.

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