Twenty-nine years ago this month, a woman I barely knew became my mother-in-law. What I did know about her was that from the limited time I had spent with her, obviously, she was the warmest, kindest, most loving person and devoted mother I had ever met. What I didn’t know was how she would impact my life.

She quickly became my “mom away from home” since Rob and I were living in Richmond and my mother was in Florida. I was a young bride at twenty and soon became a young mother at twenty-four. This is typically a time when a young adult daughter needs her mother. Without even knowing it, Joan taught me everything I needed to know about caring for babies. Who knew I could calm a crying baby by bouncing, for what seemed like hours on end, on the edge of a bed? She taught me how to love children unconditionally and how to spoil them rotten (of course that was her job!).

Joan continued to understand and be there for me throughout life’s trying times, with kind words, a card, a phone call, a meal, babysitting backup, a caring hug or simply being present. She gave me strength when I had none.

At this writing, Joan is now bed-ridden with Parkinson’s disease. She has been widowed and living alone since 1984. She needs full-time assistance and doesn’t have the financial resources to support herself any longer. Hopeless and scared, she has been slowly dying with a poor quality of life. On Monday of this week, she moved in with us. When most people dread the thought of their mother-in-law just coming to dinner, we are now blessed to have her for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day. She can now hear the ramblings and comedy of two granddaughters, the wit of her son, the boundless energy of two attentive dogs, and the annoying squeals of two guinea pigs when they are hungry. The house is full of happiness, life, and love; and I know her soul is too.

As for me, I always felt God had a great plan for me, and I have waited in anticipation. I truly feel this is part of His master plan, and I’m so thankful to be a part of it in a way that gives back to someone who gave me so much. Most say how lucky she is to have us. We say how lucky and blessed we are to have her with us.

Joan said it best, ”When Emily (the twenty-year-old granddaughter) told her Maw–Maw goodnight, she replied, “Goodnight, I’ll see you in the morning. I like being able to say that.”

I am reminded of Jeremiah 29:11. “ For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”