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Wed Apr 28, 2010 1:03 pm

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I saw my future in-laws on rare occasions.

The 760 miles between Montreal and Halifax prevented us from being together more than twice a year. Our meetings were few, but it was clear to see -- I would have no use for mother-in-law jokes -- she was pure gold. I loved her instantly.

My father-in-law was more of a challenge. Behind his serious manner, he attempted to hide a soft heart. Few grew close enough to see his tenderness. I like to think I was one of those who did.

They'd been through a lot in their lives. They immigrated to Canada during the Hungarian revolution. With two young girls in tow, they crossed the heavily guarded border into Austria and immigrated to a country they knew little about. They sought peace and found it in Canada.

My mother-in-law suffered with cancer for many years, and although it was in remission, we knew her time was short.

During one visit, as we left their hotel room on the night before their departure, I glanced back to see her standing in the hall, staring after us. Her look of sorrow brought tears to my eyes and a lump in my throat. I knew what she thought, "Will this be the last time?"

I stopped my wife and made her wait as I walked the distance to that small woman and hugged her tight.

"Mom," I whispered, "You hang in there. Come back for the wedding. I want you here."

The day of the wedding was hectic but joyous. Georgia and I stood face-to-face as we said our vows. There was a tremble in my voice as I said mine. After we were pronounced man and wife, I hugged my new bride, took her arm and walked her down the aisle and into our future.

My mother-in-law said later, "I could hear it in your voice. I know you meant every word you said."

At the reception we sat at the center of the head table, as there were numerous calls for us to show signs of affection. A spoon would strike the side of a glass. Across the room, another would join in. The clattering of spoons to glasses grew, until Georgia and I rose to our feet and kissed tenderly.

It was time for speeches. When it was my turn, I stood, turned, faced my new father-in-law, and raised my glass in the air.

"Tibor, thank you! I thank you for your courage. Many years ago, you made a decision to flee your homeland, cross a guarded border, and make your home in Canada. This lady beside me was born in a far-away country but now sits beside me as my wife. It was your strength and courage that made this possible." With a trembling voice, I continued, "Tibor, thank you for giving me your daughter."

The room was quiet, except for muffled sobs. I returned to my seat and wiped the tears from my eyes.

The afternoon flew by. We danced, hugged, and excepted words of encouragement. At one point during the festivities, I managed to find my mother-in-law alone. I crouched beside her chair and said, "Mom, you made it. I'm so glad you're here."

She hugged me, "Michael, I'm very happy. All I ever wanted, was to see Georgia settled. Today saw it happen. I can go in peace."

"Mom, hang in there." I said. "I want you to see your grandchildren."

She looked at me doubtfully. "I'm happy now. I don't expect to see my grandchildren."

I reached out, pulled her to me, and whispered in her ear, "Mom, you will. I just know it."

My mother-in-law did live to see her granddaughter. Thirteen months later our daughter was born. She came and held her, as tears spilled down her cheeks. Within a year, she passed on and lives forever in our hearts and memories.

My wife, Georgia, passed away October 10th, 2003. She is with her mom now. Two moms together for eternity.

Happy Mother's Day to my mom, my mother-in-law, Georgia -- the mother of my children, my new wife Ginny, and to all the moms reading this story.

Mothers are the strength behind great families. I've been blessed with some great ones.

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