Your mom was very loved…


QUESTION:

My mother died in Novemeber. I am 57. We were very close. Extremely. I live in NY and she died in FL. My brother and his wife lived in the same city as my mother in FL. Since that time my brother has separated from my sister in law. For a couple of years he has been with another woman. He and his new partner recently bought a house together in another city in Florida but he has not yet divorced my sister in law as she doesn’t want one.
My sister in law really bonded with my mother. She was closer to my mother than my own sister was and I would venture to say she was closer to my mother than most daughter in laws are. During my mother’s dying days it was my sister in law in Florida who tended to my mother’s every need as my mother lay in a nursing home and was in the hospital many times. Again, I live in NY and not in FL. My sister in law loved my mother.
The night of my mother’s passing I slept at my sister in laws home with plans to return to NY the next day. That night she brought me a suitcase my mother had kept of our family pictures from when we were children. My sister in law told me to take some. And so I did. When I got back to NY there was a vitrolic voicemail on my machine scolding me for the pictures I took. It seemed my sister in law had some favorites that she wanted! As she did not take them out for herself, were not of her childhood nor were pictures of her mother I was very saddened to get her message since in it she took it to the next level and said “After you send back the pictures, I want nothing to do with you ever again”.
I managed to smooth troubled waters by kindly letting her know I had no idea she was interested in family pictures from my side of the family. That I was more than willing to have professional copies made of anything she wished. I stated to her what she had said to me: “Take what you want”. However she was in what can only be described as a rage.
Today (May 18) I was speaking to my sister in law on the phone. I started to weep about missing my mother and having nothing of hers to remember her by. No artifacts that had belonged to her. My sister in law said to me (to my shock) “I have her ashes. If you want some, I can send you some”. I was so shocked that I did not say what I was thinking which is “Why in God’s name do YOU have my mother’s ashes?”. You see, there had been a memorial for my mother in FL and some of the ashes were put in the local waters. It would appear at that time my sister in law left with the “leftovers”. I can only summise since I was not at the memorial. I was back in NY and they had it shortly after I had flown home. In fact, I wasn’t even notified about it!
As my mother’s adult daughter I would like to have her ashes. Since this situation is not healthy at best, I am wondering how I can word things and what tone I should use to see if my sister in law would part with the ashes. I expected her to say “I would be glad to give you the ashes”. Instead as stated she said, “I would be glad to give you SOME”. I wanted to say, “Why do you need the ashes. Please send them to me and if you would like, I will send YOU some”.
My brother does not want the ashes.
I am very hurt my sister in law has kept this information from me. I had mentioned my mother’s ashes to her once and wanted to know if there were any left over from the memorial and she said “I don’t know”. Now today she not only said she has my mother’s ashes but I will add “And there is alot of ashes”.
How does one deal with a person who is behaving this way? I am puzzled by her behavior.
Any input would be appreciated. Since she went into a rage after I took pictures she had offered me to “help myself to” (pictures I had grown up with”) and she wanted to cut me off over it, I am afraid for history to repeat itself over my mother’s ashes.
Normally I know how to word things and what tone to use. However this situation based on my sister in law’s history has me stymied.

 

ANSWER:

One thing to remember is that this woman was very connected to your mother. Who knows what all conversations transpired between the two of them about you and your brother. There may some resentment on her part because she may feel like she was more of a child to your mother than her real children were. Whatever is going on I would suggest you act in way that is going to get you what you want. Step back a moment, does it really mean that much to have ashes? Would your mother want you fighting over getting all of her ashes or some of her ashes? I get that I am not emotionally connected to this, but at some point you may need to simply let go of all these issues and remember your mother for the good things she represented, rather than this emotionally disturbed woman. She is grieving and people do strange things sometimes when they are grieving. If you want the ashes then jump through the hoops to get them and then distance yourself from this woman if it feel emotionally unsafe to continue a relationship with her. David http://www.docdavid.net

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