By the legacy they leave behind.
My Mother-in-law was taken by ambulance to the hospital where she will likely remain until she passes later this week, although she may opt to spend her final few days at home, if she can make any decisions at this point. She has been ill for quite some time and deteriorating, though this is a rather sudden change.
I may not be able to speak with her again before she is gone. I was with her when they called the squad, and I sat with her until they came to take her away. During that time, through her labored breathing, she told me that I was the best thing that ever happened to her son. She told me that if she could have hand-picked her daughter, it would be me. She told me she loved me and that I was a beautiful person. She told me the world was a better place because I was in it. I didn't get a chance to tell her more than "I love you" before they took her away.
With more time, I would have told her that I owe a lot of who I am today to her. She is the one who taught me how to be an adult. I learned a lot of what I know about cooking and motherhood and responsibility from her. She is so much more than a Mother-in-law. She is a role model, even though she's far from perfect. She is a friend, even though I am married to her son. She is a sister, and I love her like the other half of myself.
I saw my Father-in-law cry several times this week. He is the best and strongest man I know. This is the hardest thing I have ever been through in my life, and I feel a heavy dose of reality coming on. The last thing she told me was that I am the matriarch of the family now. Those are shoes I am neither ready nor qualified to fill, but I will gladly walk awkwardly in them until they fit--for her and for my family.
Ironically, today's rune was Tiwaz, a rune that speaks of right action, justice and a willingness to self-sacrifice. Coupled with the resurgence in my relationship with Athena, I feel confident that we will make it through just fine. We are not alone, and that is a great comfort to me.