Over the past week my husband and I have gotten numerous e-mails, Facebook messages, phone calls, and cards expressing their condolences and support regarding the unexpected death of my mother-in-law last week. On behalf of my husband, the rest of his extended family, and myself I would like to express a public message of thanks for all of your good wishes. We will eventually write or contact each of you on an individual basis. Right now we are recuperating from a very exhausting trip to Phoenix, where my mother-in-law spent the last 18 years of her life. We returned from BWI Airport late last night and we are still adjusting to time zone changes right now.

Just getting tickets to and from Phoenix was a big enough challenge. Many of the baseball teams (mostly on the West Coast) are converging on Phoenix right now for spring training. (We were staying in a hotel that was located just down the street from Tempe Diablo Stadium, which is the spring training site for the Anaheim Angels. We saw plenty of people wearing Angels hats and shirts in the hotel lobby. It’s too bad we didn’t have time to check out any games.) On top of that, Phoenix was also the place where Wrestlemania XXVI was held last weekend which drew, according to the local press, around 70,000 people. Plus it’s the height of college spring break so there was a huge influx of college students going to and from their schools.

Getting return trip tickets was also a challenge because the National Cherry Blossom Festival has just started its two-week run in Washington, DC last Saturday and we still had to contend with college students going to and from spring break.

Once we arrived in Phoenix, it was a total whirlwind regarding the death of my mother-in-law. Everyone was in a state of shock mainly because she went from being healthy to dead in less than two weeks. I really began to feel the loss when my husband and I arrived at Sky Harbor International Airport. On previous trips, my husband’s mother and stepfather were always at the airport when we arrived to greet us and to drive us immediately to their home once we got our bags from the baggage claim area.

This time no one was there to greet us and we had to go to the rental car area to pick up a rental car so we could commute to our hotel room.

Once we checked into our hotel room, the entire stay in Phoenix became a total blur. A few hours after checking into the hotel room, we had to go to the funeral home to be with the rest of the family as we greeted friends and acquaintances of my mother-in-law who arrived to pay their respects. The next day was the funeral and reception at the church followed by a family dinner at a Mexican restaurant. Then we spent the next few days going through my mother-in-law’s things (mainly clothes, books, and jewelry) trying to decide who should get what item and what items should be donated to a local charity. On top of that, a few family members were meeting with a financial planner regarding my mother-in-law’s estate while, at the same time, I was sent to Staples to do a special project for the family.

My mother-in-law kept a collection of recipies that were either clipped from various publications or were old family recipes from previous generations that were written on various index cards. One family member had the idea of making photocopies of my mother-in-law’s recipe collection so that other family members will have something to remember my mother-in-law by. At one point I was sent to a nearby Staples to make copies of all the clippings she kept in that one notebook. It took at least two hours to make 10 photocopies of each publication clipping or index card that my mother-in-law kept mainly because the clippings and index cards were various odd sizes so I couldn’t simply run 8.5" x 11" pages through a photocopier machine in a quick and automatic manner. I had to maually copy each clipping 10 times. There were times when I could place two or three smaller recipe clippings on the glass plate so I could have two or three recipes on a single page. But there were many index cards where she had recipe instructions written on both sides of the same card so I had to photocopy each side separately.

By the time I finished with that project, my back had grown very stiff and sore from watching over the photocopy machine. (It didn’t help that Staples didn’t have any chairs I could sit in to take brief breaks. I was standing on my feet the entire time.) I also had a huge pile of photocopied paper which was so heavy that I had to go out to the rental car, place the big pile in the car, then go back into Staples so I could purchase folders to put the photocopied recipes in.

When I got back to my in-laws’ home, I had to manually collate that huge photocopied pile into 10 separate piles then put them into folders, a process that took another two hours. Well, it all worked out in the end. I gave one copy to my oldest nephew, who is getting married in July, and took another copy for my husband and I. Five copies will be ultimately given to my husband’s siblings and step-siblings. I ended up printing three extra copies so my husband had an idea of getting a second copy to give to a friend of ours at our church who is an avid cook and who is also in the process of setting up her own breadmaking business out of her home. (She is such an avid cook that she has a mud oven in her backyard that she uses to bake her bread but that’s another story.) I’m sure that the two extra copies will eventually be given to two nieces who have recently turned 18 but they are still in school so they won’t be needing kitchen recipes for another few years.

In between all that, we went to two separate barbecues in two days–one was held at the home of one of my husband’s step-brothers while the other was held at the home of a guy who is the son of my mother-in-law’s closest friend and who had relocated to Phoenix just a few years ago. We also attended Palm Sunday service at the same church where the funeral for my mother-in-law was held just a couple of days ago. The barbecues and church service provided a much-needed break from the chore of going through my mother-in-law’s things.

The whole process was emotionally draining and we still haven’t finished going through my mother-in-law’s things when my husband and I had to return to Washington, DC last night. We are planning to return to Phoenix in late April to tie up a few loose ends regarding my mother-in-law’s estate. Right now we want to take a few weeks to get used to the idea that my mother-in-law is dead.

In closing, I want to mention that in lieu of flowers, the family is asking people to make donations to the two charities that my mother-in-law actively championed during the last decade of her life.

Community Based Services

Phoenix Public Library Foundation

Once again, I want to thank everyone who provided support during this difficult time. My mother-in-law would’ve been thrilled that so many people cared about her and her family.