My mother-in-law passed away the other day following a stroke.
Dr. Edna Richard was 76.
She passed away barely six months after my father-in-law. To lose loved ones so suddenly, in succession, leaves us with heavy hearts and often overwhelming grief.
And memories. Rich, wonderful memories.
Edna Richard gave the world three wonderful daughters while presenting countless more in a career that spanned over 40 years.
As an Ob/Gyn, Dr. Richard's eyes were the first ones seen by hundreds of babies. She spent her life caring for families in their most intimate, joyous moments.
Now that she's gone (and not subject to a howling hospital administrator) I can share a little secret: She kissed each and every baby on the forehead before handing it over to the mother.
Dr. Edna Richard was a beautiful, elegant woman. My wife has fond childhood memories of waiting in the living room for her parents to descend for some "warm up" dancing before a night on the town.
She was always impeccably dressed, always in a dress, except once, an experience as odd for me as catching Mitt Romney in a Soul Train dance line.
She loved and embraced me and my two children as her own (we like to say in our family the only "steps" lead to another floor). And once we gave her two additional granddaughters, well, I was good as gold.
Naturally, for a woman who had at least 50 Godchildren, her grandchildren were the best, the brightest and most beautiful. "She is so intell-eee-jent," she would gush in her thick Haitian accent, "She connn-nnnnects with people."
Other than watching a kid devour ice cream there are few greater pleasures than watching a grandparent in their element.
Trust me, if Edna had her way they would be hammering away on Mt. Rushmore for her six grandchildren.
My mother-in-law had a wonderful, often unintended sense of humor. Countless times I would be sitting in a room with her and Tania (my wife) listening to them speak French and she would turn to me and remind me, in English, that Haitians often speak French. Then she would turn around and go back to speaking French.
Haitian custom calls for posing stoically, straight faced, in photographs. It's mostly generational, and if you look closely you see pride bursting through.
When people die we go through photos. For me, one stands out.
In it my bride to be, hours from her wedding, is standing in sweatpants and a t-shirt, wearing her veil and a smile set to last through the evening. Her mother is next to her, holding her hand.
On this day, in this picture, Mom is smiling.
And somewhere, today, she is still smiling down on her daughters, her grandchildren, and all of the children she cradled and kissed through the years.