To say this past week has been difficult is the proverbial understatement. Difficult doesn’t come close to describing these past seven days.
On Christmas Eve, after a period of failing health and with two of her six children at her bedside, my beloved mother-in-law, Peggy Jaeger, passed away.
I’ve been trying all week to try and come up with the words to describe how much I loved and adored this woman. Nothing seems enough.
My daughter wrote a loving tribute to her grandmother she posted on Facebook and that I reposted. You can read it here. The fact that she chooses to remember the funny, sometimes hilarious, instances that she shared with her grandmother have made what I want to say as tribute easier.
I could tell you that this was a woman who always put herself second to her husband and family. Their needs, their happiness, their desires and wants came first. To explain this, my mother-in-law waited until her last child was in college to go and pursue her own dream of a college diploma. She graduated with a Fine Arts degree, majoring in art, a subject she always loved—and—which she was talented in.
I could tell you this woman didn’t have the easiest life growing up. Parental abandonment, then being raised by an aged uncle who had no knowledge of children, their needs, their emotions wasn’t easy. In her early 20’s she was stricken with Guillain Barre syndrome, a condition so severe she was given supreme Unction by the Church ( for those of you who aren’t Catholic, that’s Last Rites.) Through all this and many more travails, she remained a warm-hearted, loving, and genuinely happy woman.
I could tell you my mother-in-law was a selfless person. This is evidenced by her long-term commitment to hospice volunteerism. In fact, she was awarded Volunteer of the Year due to her numerous hours she gave of her time freely and selflessly.
I could tell you all that and more, but….
I want to tell you about what she meant to me, not just as a mother-in-law, but as a person, a woman, and a role model. She taught me to love unconditionally, live selflessly, and laugh daily.
The two words that I think best describe Peggy Jaeger (and YES! We are both Peggy Jaegers!) are Kindness and Faith.
My mother-in-law was, without doubt, the kindest woman I ever had the pleasure to meet. She had a perpetual smile on her face, a kind word for everyone she came in contact with and was truly liked by everyone who knew her.
When her oldest son and I got engaged, we went out to dinner with my soon-to-be in-laws and she asked me, “Now what are you going to call me after you get married?” She had no idea that the name I wanted more than any other to call her was “Mom.” I looked to her as the quintessential mother. Six children, all raised with love and discipline, faith and honor. Not a rotten apple among them. She ended that question with, “I really hope you want to call me Mom.” I fell a little more in love with her that day than I already was and I cried happy tears.
My mother-in-law’s faith in her Catholic religion is exemplary. She not only practiced her religion, she lived it day to day. She walked the walk and talked the talk of the Commandments and Jesus’s teachings. My sister in law shared a lovely remembrance at the wake. Once when we were all gathered around the dinner table, someone posed the question, “What would you do if you had a million dollars?” All around the table were responses of buy jewelry, buy a mansion, take a world trip. When it came time for my MIL to respond, she said, “I’d find 10 needy people and give them $100,000 each.” Of course, that was the perfect answer to the question and showed how this woman’s mind and heart work.
She had 6 children, 9 grandchildren when she died. Yes, the wake, Mass, and burial were emotional torture for all of us, but at the remembrance luncheon that followed there was nothing but laughter at all the fun and funny memories her lifetime left us with.
My MIL’s favorite drink when we’d have parties was a Mai Tai. In honor of that, her 9 adoring grandchildren all lifted a Virgin version of the drink in her honor at the end of the day.
Here’s to you, Margaret Patricia Wood Jaeger. Peggy, Mom, Grandma. Mrs Jaeger. Whatever you were called, you were loved, honored and cherished and will be missed.