She wrapped her arms around the tiny woman, feeling all her of her frailty and age. And, yet she herself felt she was the one small and crumbling at the words she was hearing:
“I love your parents, you know. And...I love you too.”
With that hug and her return I love you, she wished that so many things in her heart could be instantly transferred without words:
“I have missed you so very much.”
“Your love means so much to me.”
“I am sorry that we disappointed you. Sorry for that most of all.”
“I am sorry that I couldn’t make things work with your son.”
With arms outstretched, she wanted to say more:
“I really am the good person you knew me to be. I am still me. I am still here.”
“I have learned so much and have grown so close to the same God that you love.”
“Thank you for all of our time together. I cherish those memories.”
“It is OK with me if you love her as much or more than me. I hope that she loves you and deserves you.”
“It was really hard being replaced so quickly and easily with your family. I truly loved you all.”
As the lump formed in her throat in those few seconds that seemed like a hour, she knew that a hug could simply not say all of the things she wanted to say. But, she was sure the elderly woman saw the emotion that she was trying to contain. She hoped that somehow, her former mother-in-law could understand how important this moment was for her.
The years they had spent together had mattered so much. Always feeling different from her own family, this woman had given her a emotional home. And, when her beloved grandmother had passed right before the birth of her daughter, the one person with whom she felt such a bond, this woman's home and love had been so very important to her survival.
In the face of divorce, her own family had disappointed. She loved and forgave them, and understood that they just did not know how to be here for her emotionally in the way she so desperately needed during a time of so much loss and fear. This was the one person she would have talked to during that time, and she could not. She had spent the past few years feeling like she was now the designated enemy of the one of the most important women in her life.
In reality, this was just a well-wished hug. But, in her heart, so much more was said. As she watched her former mother-in-law walk away, she realized that she probably would never get the chance to say all of these things to her. Saying them now would be selfish, and would cause stress in a carefully balanced dynamic that was currently working. So, this would have to be enough. This hug and this short moment.
And, deep inside, somehow…it was.