In Others’ Words: Ninety-three

“May you live all the days of your life.” ~Jonathan Swift, Anglo-Irish satirist

My mother-in-law celebrates her 93rd birthday today.

That’s her in the photo, getting ready to blow out the candles of her cake. And yes, she got ’em all blown out in one try!

As she reminisced last night, she recounted how she was born several days before the end of World War I — and has then lived through World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, and, of course, our present conflict.

Her father was one of the last homesteaders in Montana.  She was born in a one-room log cabin that he built by hand. She rode a horse to school, which was held in a one-room school house.

She married at 18. Her one and only child (my husband) was born 21 years later, when she was almost 40 years old. She was widowed 5 years later.

She rose from the position of a secretary for the National Farmers Union to become a lobbyist on Capitol Hill.

As she sat in my dining room surrounded by her family — son, daughter-in-law, grandkids and spouses — she reminisced. Her body’s slowing down. Fragile. Macular degeneration has almost completely stolen her eyesight. But her mind is remarkably agile.

She offered thanks for the gifts given. But she often says the best gift is time spent with family. Time to talk. Time to be together.

There are a lot of lessons I could take away from my mother-in-law’s ninety-three years, but I’ve decided on the one that’s most important. Tangible gifts — a book, a blouse, some thing — are nice. Sometimes they are just what you asked for.

But time spent with people you love. That’s irreplaceable. That’s the stuff of memories.

A lifetime of them.

In Your Words: Treasured memories. We often think about them on birthdays. If today was your birthday, what memory would you celebrate? Would you celebrate a some-thing or a some-one?

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20 Comments

  1. Jeanne T
    October 31, 2011, 6:14 am   /  Reply

    Wow, Beth, I’m a little teary as I read about your mil. What a life she’s lived. I love your quote, about living each day you have (my paraphrase). I don’t want to endure them, or to just get through them. I want to live them.

    Only celebrating one memory…..That’s hard. It would definitely be of time shared with others. I have special memories of time with my mother’s parents, who are both gone now. With friends, with my family–laughing around the dinner table, vacations we shared together and laugh about now. So many precious memories….

    • Beth Vogt
      October 31, 2011, 8:31 am   /  Reply

      Jeanne: point proven. Your special memories are all about time spent together, not things.

  2. October 31, 2011, 6:33 am   /  Reply

    Very nice, especially those early MT years and then rising to prominence in WA. What a heritage–she sounds like someone to learn from.

    • Beth Vogt
      October 31, 2011, 8:30 am   /  Reply

      One of the gifts my mother-in-law is giving the family: a detailed family history. She’s spent years compiling it.

      • Jeanne T
        October 31, 2011, 11:14 am   /  Reply

        THAT’S a priceless gift!

  3. October 31, 2011, 7:04 am   /  Reply

    I love hearing other people’s stories. Happy Birthday to your mother-in-law. I cherish memories of people I know and those who are no longer with me.

    • Beth Vogt
      October 31, 2011, 8:29 am   /  Reply

      Stacy, I will pass the birthday greetings along to my mother-in-law. 🙂

  4. October 31, 2011, 7:07 am   /  Reply

    Beth, you are so right! As my dad’s health has begun to deteriorate we’ve rediscovered the joy of spending time with him. Thanks for this timely confirmation!

    • Beth Vogt
      October 31, 2011, 8:29 am   /  Reply

      Good morning, Edie! May you enjoy your time with your dad!

  5. October 31, 2011, 8:05 am   /  Reply

    Oh….I would have to agree with your mother-in-law. There’s nothing more precious to me than time with those I love.

    Today is my father’s birthday, too. If he were still alive, he’d be celebrating 92, and I wrote about it in my blog.

    Have a great day, Beth. May our day be surrounded by those we love. XOX

  6. October 31, 2011, 9:34 am   /  Reply

    Happy Birthday to your Mother-in-Law! My mother turned 91 last week, and I agree with you about time spent with loved ones. They are from a generation of hardy stock. My mother’s mom and dad died within months of each other when my mom was 9. She had to drop out of school (third grade) to help her older sister take care of 5 brothers. But she educated herself and can do math I can’t do. lol I don’t get to see as much of her as I’d like, but we do talk on the phone at least 30 minutes every day.

    • Beth Vogt
      October 31, 2011, 9:46 am   /  Reply

      Wow, Pat. Your mom sounds like an amazing woman. And aren’t we thankful for technology so we can connect with family who are far away?

  7. October 31, 2011, 10:27 am   /  Reply

    Happy birthday to your mom-in-law, Beth! So many somethings and someones to celebrate if it was my bday…how to pick? Hmm…OLLIE! I celebrate him every day of the year. Also, I found out this morning a pastor I LOVE is cancer-free following surgery last week. It hasn’t spread anywhere else. A massive reason to celebrate, bday or not. 🙂

    • Beth Vogt
      October 31, 2011, 11:41 am   /  Reply

      Your nephew Ollie is so-worth celebrating every day of the year. His smile cheered me up last week!

  8. Loree Huebner
    October 31, 2011, 11:03 am   /  Reply

    Wonderful post.

    Happy Birthday to your mother-in-law! 93! Think of all the things she has seen during her lifetime. Wow!

    Life is really about time spent with the people we love…

    • Beth Vogt
      October 31, 2011, 11:40 am   /  Reply

      It was amazing to think of all the changes she’s seen. She’s a strong woman and left us quite a legacy.

  9. October 31, 2011, 11:27 am   /  Reply

    What a wonderful expression of love! It was nice to read. It was my oldest daughter’s 16th birthday this weekend. We did some silly stories but not as much reminiscing as I wish we had now – as I read your post. It is a good healthy thing to do though. Thanks for the reminder.

    • Beth Vogt
      October 31, 2011, 11:39 am   /  Reply

      We have a family tradition of sharing favorite memories of the birthday guy or gal whenever we gather to celebrate them. It’s become a treasured tradition — involving tears and laughter!

  10. October 31, 2011, 12:31 pm   /  Reply

    Wow, Beth, What a beautiful tribute. And a wonderful reminder.

    • Beth Vogt
      October 31, 2011, 12:35 pm   /  Reply

      Family. Family. Family.
      Together.

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