She lived, she laughed, she loved. These words repeatedly pop into my mind as I think about my mother-in-law, Muriel Rosemary Shute (nee Beardwood), who fell asleep in the Lord at the age of 88 years on July 1, 2019 after a long and valiant struggle with Parkinson’s disease.
From the time of her birth, August 14, 1930 in Welland, Ontario, Canada, Rosemary was a fighter. She entered the world a premature breech baby weighing only 4 pounds, was incubated on her parents wood stove, and was so delicate she had to be carried on a pillow, according to the family. Yet she overcame and lived a good, long life.
Her younger years were not without sorrow, however. Her mother, Flora, died of cancer in her early 50’s, when Rosemary was only 16 years old. Her older siblings took her under their wings especially her sister, Ivy and her brother, Edgar. Ivy, who was 15 years older than Rosemary, became a kind of surrogate mother to her.
Rosemary’s father, Harry, suffered from hardening of the arteries which is known today as Alzheimer’s. He had to go into a sanitorium and died when Rosemary was only in her early 30’s. It was another devastating loss in the family. But close ties with the family and friends kept them strong over the years. And Rosemary grew up to appreciate the preciousness of life as well as the importance of family, friendship, and faith.
Many in her church family fondly remember the times she went on golf outings and bowled with fellow members. Indeed, she was quite active in her church, singing in the church choir, presenting solos, and duets with her husband, Howard, a dedicated church leader in his own right. She also served in various church positions including Sunday School superintendent and church deaconess, as well as involvement in church fundraisers.
But one activity in which Rosemary will always be remembered is her “incredibly funny skits” for church socials, as members close to her recall. Not only did the members get many laughs, but she got a lot of chuckles out of the skits herself. As one couple reported, “Rarely could she get through one of these presentations without her breaking into giggles and snorts and eventually full on laughter, infecting all of us to join in.”
And that was her nature.
Yet, along with her jovial nature, my mother-in-law was a hard worker. Moreover, she was very efficient at what she did whether it was cleaning hotel rooms, tying grapes, or simply keeping house. Indeed, she always kept a tidy house!
She even opened a restaurant she called “Rosemary’s Inn.” Well, actually, it was only open for one evening. That’s when I came up from my home in Ohio to visit Diane, at that time my girlfriend. So, to make the occasion romantic, Rosemary fixed the two of us a nice meal, served on a small table for two, complete with a lighted candle illuminating the darkened living room for effect. Diane’s mom played the part of a waitress, apron and all. And nothing would do but Diane and I had to dress up for all of this. It was all in fun.
Us two “love birds,” as she called us, had an elegant evening much to the joy and pleasure of the one who would become my mother-in-law. Every time I brought back the memory of that romantic night at Rosemary’s Inn and asked if it was still open, she would grin and say, “Nope! It’s closed.”
Whether it was a game of Sorry, Checkers, or Crokinole (a Canadian board game consisting of flicking small wooden discs into the center and scoring points) with her family, my mother-in-law always enjoyed herself, win or lose.
Everyone you’d talk to, including her children, testify of her joy for life and sense of humor. Words like “fun loving, caring, friendly, smiley, joyful” describe the kind of personality she had. And I remember how she liked making others smile, too.
When my wife and I returned from our honeymoon in Toronto (Was it REALLY 45 years ago? My, how time flies!), we stayed at her parents’ home in Niagara Falls before leaving the next day to live in the states. Just a few days earlier we were married at the Glad Tidings Church of God in Fonthill, Ontario, about 12 miles away. All of our wedding presents were being held at her parent’s house until we were going to leave.
When we returned to their house from our honeymoon late in the evening and came up to our bedroom, we pulled back the bed covers only to find rice spread everywhere in the sheets and pillows! Diane’s mom put them there as a sort of “welcome” to our new married life together. The next morning, when we told her about the “surprise” we found, she just grinned from ear to ear acting innocent about the whole thing.
We had so many wedding gifts, we could barely fit everything into our car. We were concerned that we’d have to pay a large duty for them when we crossed over the border at customs.
As we were preparing to leave the house, my mother-in-law not only sent us away with a teary good-bye, and a hug. She suddenly threw a handful of confetti on us in the car as we began to drive away, wishing us newlyweds a fond farewell. Confetti was everywhere: On the dashboard, in the seats, on the gifts that we had packed, and all over our clothes and hair.
When we arrived at customs in Buffalo, New York, we pulled into the office for inspection. We had a long list of the gifts and their estimated value to report to the officials. When we told them we just got married, they said, “Obviously. We can tell by all that confetti on you!” They took it humorously and let us a cross into the U.S. without paying any duty—thanks in large part to my mother-in-law and the confetti!
One thing I think is most unique and that’s having my mother-in-law as one of the members of the church I pastored. This includes all my in-laws, as well. For the Glad Tidings Church of God (Abrahamic Faith), Ontario, Canada, is my wife’s home church where her siblings continue to remain active. I was privileged and blessed to have pastored the church there for almost 12 years (2002 to 2014).
And throughout those years, I greatly enjoyed being my mother-in-law’s minister. When I was up at the pulpit each Sunday, I appreciated seeing her seated in the pew beside my father-in-law, as they took part in the worship services. And when I would come up with a mother-in-law joke in the message, especially on Mother’s Day, I could always count on getting a laugh out of her each time.
When she eventually entered the retirement home, I often visited her, ate meals together, and sometimes I’d bring her communion. In fact, she always looked forward to my coming there to help the social director, also from our church, who led hymn singing with all the other residents each month. As I mentioned, she loved to sing and enjoyed the camaraderie with all the other fellow residents and staff.
“Mom” Shute truly had a spirit about her that everyone came to love and admire. Her bright smile and sparkling eyes were seen in her love and zest for life. I could not have asked for a better mother-in-law and the encouragement she gave me even when she laughed at my corny jokes and puns.
It always tickled me whenever she called me her “most favorite son-in-law.” Never mind the fact that I was her ONLY son-in-law. But I could turn that around, as well, and say, “She was my most favorite mother-in-law,” even though she’s the only one I ever had. I can just hear her chuckling about this remark.
Her love for life was reflected by her love for her beloved husband, her children, her church family, her relatives and many friends. She loved to be with people. And I believe this stems from her love for the Lord and being able to use her talents and gifts for his service. From the time she helped with the children in the church, and even being a foster parent for a while, she loved to help others and make their day a little brighter.
Although much more could be said, suffice it to say that my wonderful mother-in-law left an indelible print upon our hearts. And while we’ll all miss her, we eagerly look forward to the Day when we shall see her again—that Day when Jesus comes to raise all the faithful asleep in Christ to immortality, and we shall forever be together with the Lord in his Kingdom. For this passage comes to mind:
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, New American Standard Bible, NASB).
My we all find comfort in these words as we eagerly prepare for that Great Day!
Good News to YOU!
P.S. Here is a song that was sung as a duet by my mother-in-law and father-in-law at church, and lovingly presented at this time in their memory: “He Touched Me” https://youtu.be/oJNSlJqTku0