The Power of a Mother's Hug Saved My Marriage: My letter of Gratitude for a woman named Shirlee
Updated: Nov 23, 2021
Today I celebrate being married to your son for twenty-one years. Our wedding was one of the happiest days of my life, yet there was something missing, and that something was you. My new husband missed the dance with his mother that day and has missed many moments since then, as have I.
Two decades and one year have passed since that day and all without the opportunity to share a cup of tea with you. The pleasure of hearing your laughter is an experience I won’t ever enjoy. We have given life to two of your grandsons who’ve gone without seeing the overwhelming expression of love in your eyes as you first held them.
All of these tender moments we would have hoped to have with you never occurred because your beautiful life was cut way too short, as lung cancer claimed another victim. The world was unfairly stripped of a wonderful human and kind soul on that cold, 23rd day of December, in 1983, and to this day, I cannot imagine the pain my husband felt when he heard his Mom was gone.
A mother taken from this Earth two days before Christmas seems a cruel joke had been played on him by the universe. When I think of it, my heart still aches for him. A young man, just barely sixteen years in age, planning to attend his mother’s funeral during what many consider the most wonderful time of the year.
He was sure Christmas would never be the same again, but then he met me, and my two-year-old daughter and he fell head over heels in love with the two of us. Christmas mornings and life itself had new luster and joy was returned to his life, as well as ours.
As you know, John always loved dogs and when we first met, he had five four-legged furballs and a bed for each one in his house. I used to tease him about getting the better end of the deal! Deep down though, I knew my daughter and I hit the jackpot when he chose to spend the rest of his life with us.
You know, he even included her in his proposal to me, and at our wedding wrote his own vows which he recited to her? His tenderness and sincerity as he vowed to be a good father to her brought those in the church to tears.
Oh, that day, twenty-one years ago, was an amazing day, filled with excitement and anticipation of a happy, happy life. Yet, as you well know, life is known to throw us curve balls.
As time goes on and life takes over, it doesn’t matter how much love you may have for another! A marriage takes work, especially when there are hurdles you’ve got to jump together but instead choose to leap over them alone.
During our marriage, John and I endured many challenges for sure, but after we were married for ten, they got so bad we sought the help of a marriage counselor. During one of the sessions, I came to understand the complete love and adoration my husband had for the women in his life, you and me.
I can’t recall the question that triggered his response, but the words he spoke that evening, are permanently etched in my mind. I’m sure it had something to do with ending our marriage, though because as a couple, healing our marriage was at a complete standstill and we were moving further away from one another, rather than coming together. The question is beside the point though because it was his response that was so profound.
He said, “There are two people in my life whose hugs I will never forget, my Mom’s and Lyd’s.”
Every ounce of pain came through in his voice that night, and it obliterated any anger I had been holding against him. His statement humanized him again, and I could no longer look at him as my opponent. His genuine, heartfelt words evoked spontaneous empathy in me and when I looked at him, I once again saw the man I loved and longed to comfort.
Tears of pain welled up in my eyes for him. It was so apparent how much he missed and loved you and how much he would miss me if we couldn’t figure this out. Things were so bad at the time that we had driven to counseling separately, but that night, as we drove home, I made him pull over so I could tell him I was sorry for his pain and hug him.
That night was a turning point for us. With hard work, deep love, and commitment, we persevered through our marital issues and came out on the other side. Today we are stronger and more in love than we have ever been. It’s eleven years later, and we continue to be happy.
He’s my best friend, my confidant, my soul mate, and my person for as long I shall live. Had I not learned about the impact of your hug on his life, the story may have turned out differently.
You loved your son so very much, and he loved and respected you. The young man you raised was determined to grow into a man that would continue to treat women the way he felt about you. And he has!
He is respectful, unconditionally loving, forgiving, and loyal. He is this way because of the love you provided and the self-love you fostered in him. For that, I will be forever grateful to you.
Although I’ve never literally been able to spend time with you, today I realized in a way I actually have. For example, when I sit and laugh with John, while he tells me stories of his childhood and about you, I get to know a little more with each and every one of his tales. Salmon burgers on Saturdays after church, and Palacsinta made on demand for a late-night snack while you’d watch television together are memories he conveys with passion and joy. I witness the love in his eyes as he recounts them, and I am able to see what an amazing person you were through them.
I have sat on my front porch with you, enjoying iced tea on a hot summer day, as a butterfly stops by to say hello. We’ve enjoyed morning coffee together as the sun burned off the morning dew that glistened upon the grass. I have even gotten to talk to you about our children. Although it was my husband’s physical presence to my left, I feel you were there too, for your spirit lives on within him.
Despite the fact that we never got to meet or hug or shop together, I believe we would have had a lot in common. From what I understand, you loved catalog shopping, and my husband still tries t-shirts on to this day because of it! Though times have changed and catalogs have evolved into Amazon and online shopping, I think we could have had a ball spending our Hungarian husband’s money together! I’m pretty sure I would have adored you, Shirlee.
We would have been the best of friends, I just know it. And our common bond would have been the deep love we have for this man I married named John.
Shirlee, I know you are watching down on us from heaven showering us with blessings on our 21st wedding anniversary. Although the day is typically spent celebrating the union of two individuals, I wanted to take this opportunity to celebrate and thank you.
Thank you for this amazing man you brought into the world on June 18, and brought home without a name! I love the story of his homecoming and your father-in-law’s amazement in how you could forget to name your child, only to find out he was named after him! What a wonderful gesture of love for your husband’s father! Indeed, you really were a special woman!
Thank you for molding and shaping him into the honest and loving husband he is to me and the amazing father he is to our children. Thank you for instilling the values of loyalty and unconditional love in your son. I have put him through hell at times and he’s never left my side.
You know, he’s named a bike ride after you? It’s called “My Mom’s Ride.” He took me once, and it’s an incredibly scenic ride along the river and through the countryside. Yet the most beautiful parts are the moments of quiet as he stops to sit at your graveside and whisper how much he loves you.
Shirlee, for every kiss and hug you gave your son, every ounce of encouragement, every memory you created, every tear you caught, and every laugh you shared with him, I thank you. Though your life was cut short, you made sure to leave a legacy of love and packed your son full of confidence and amazingness.
You are more than a mother-in-law to me, Shirlee. You are and always will be the woman whose hug saved my marriage.
Sarah Shahi once said, “The most important mark I will leave on this world is my son.”
That you did, Shirlee, that you did.
I can only hope to have the same influence on the boys I am raising.
Lovingly and forever grateful,
Your Daughter-in-Law Lydia`
Dedicated to my amazing husband, John. I will love you forever, baby! Happy 21st Anniversary! Here’s to many more! `