Monday, March 22, 2010

RIP Jette

My mother in law Jette passed away tonight, two days after a catastrophic heart attack. I never could have fathomed that Michael and I would lose our mothers within four months of one another. Both of our mothers could be difficult women, but they were our mothers, and they loved us, and we loved them, even in the midst of complicated relationships. When you have a mom, it's as if someone is standing between you and the cliff's edge; being a motherless child, you have a better view of the abyss. I am grateful we are here to shelter one another, to give each other the love and support and nurturing we need to turn away from the cliff, feel the sweet ground beneath our feet holding us up.

I have to admit, it took me a while to warm to Jette. I adore my former mother in law and miss her terribly, and Jette was nothing like Patricia. Jette could be cantankerous and opinionated and intolerant and fearful, and I often had to bite my tongue around her. But my heart started to open to her over time, especially recently. Jette had really turned a corner in the last couple of months, had started to be more positive and active in her life. She began an email correspondence with me about a month ago, and through those emails, I could see a side of her I hadn't seen before, a lively, thoughtful side--her humor really came through, and her love of language and literature, and her deep love for her family. I am so grateful I had that window into her spirit (although I did catch glimpses of it before. She always lit up around Asher, and he lit up around her, too--he always smiled and laughed when she shared Danish rhymes and songs. And of course she raised a beautiful, wise son.)

Michael has been amazing through this whole painful experience, strong and philosophical and tender, letting himself feel the whole gamut of emotions he needs to process. He feels some peace knowing his mom is at peace now, and knowing that her life ended on a high note. And like me, he is so grateful we have Asher to help us get through this time of grief. After my mom died, a friend told me that Asher was born to be a healer. It certainly feels that way now; he brings us so much joy, even in the midst of the most wrenching experiences. He was like that even before he was born--if I started to feel worried because I hadn't felt him kick for a while, he would give me a good jab, almost as if to let me know he was okay. Of course I don't want to saddle him with the burden of always being there to reassure us--he is here to walk his own path, not bolster ours. I hope it will take him to amazing, fulfilling places. He is four months old today, and has another cold, which is worrisome, but all in all, he is such a robust, thriving, happy, hilarious boy.

Michael said something today about how with our mothers gone, we have to really grow up, to become our fullest selves. A challenge I know we are up to, even though it feels a bit scary, and very sad.

Rest in peace, Jette.


  1. You have given us a lovely portrait of Jette. Thank you.

  2. Oh sweet Gayle -- My heart is full with love for all of you. KEith & I are both fatherless now. It is the beginning of a different place in the world. I wish I could give you a hug in person, but know it's here for you, as am I.

    Much love,

  3. So sorry, Michael and Gayle. Thanks once again for your open heart during these times.

  4. I'm sorry to hear about this loss. I've thought a lot about your mom since you posted about her. Hang in there.

  5. Nice Post~!!!. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

  6. I am so sorry. (And I'm sorry that I didn't realize until now.) I'm thinking about you guys.