• Lydia Chu

My late father-in-law's love for my mango smoothie

It was almost a month ago when my father-in-law passed away from prostate cancer.

In loving memory of Stan Sturges Sr, 1929 - 2019

It was around 4 am, July 12, 2019, when my husband's cell phone rang. My husband had just gotten back the night before from visiting his father in Portland, Oregon. It was my sister-in-law calling to tell us that my father-in-law had passed away. Even before my husband had answered the phone, somehow I just knew.

My father-in-law was first diagnosed with prostate cancer over two years ago. Even though it was initially diagnosed as an aggressive stage 3 cancer, he had done well for the first two years and had many plans to enjoy the remaining days of his life. Unfortunately, his health began to decline rapidly in the last few months and passed away just three months shy of his 90th birthday.

I first met my father-in-law about 10 years ago when I just started dating my husband. He was a tall man who stood six foot four just an inch shorter than his son. He was in his 80's at the time and had just retired from being a psychiatrist for the past 40 plus years. He was a calm, patient man who was looking forward to enjoying his retirement with his wife of 60 years.

Even though I got to know a little bit about some of his amazing life accomplishments through my husband, it wasn't until just last weekend when I attended his funeral that I learned a lot more about what a great and talented man he was who had once met Richard Nixon and appeared on Ed Sullivan's show. He was truly a humble man who never spoke about his amazing accomplishments and lived a very modest life.

Over the last ten years, I seldom saw my in-laws since they lived in Portland, Oregon. We would see them occasionally mostly around the holidays so it made it hard for me to get to know them over the years. It also didn't helped that my husband and I went through some rocky times in our relationship where we had parted our ways more than few times before getting married two and a half years ago. Through it all, my in-laws were patient and non judgemental. They treated me and my girls with kindness and understanding and had always welcomed us into their family with open arms.

Despite their kindness and my husband's reassurance, I never knew how they felt about me. I always felt guilty about going in and out of their lives due to my turbulent relationship with my husband. About 5 years ago, as a Christmas gift, my husband and I booked a trip to take our in-laws on a trip to Mexico. Regrettably, after another one of our huge fights, my husband and I broke up and had to cancel the trip. It was one of my biggest regrets and was always in my heart to make it up to them. So I did my best whenever I went to see them in their last years especially during the last few months of their lives. I wanted to say how sorry I was for going in and out of their lives and for cancelling the trip to Mexico that they were so looking forward to but never found the courage.

It was after the funeral. One of my sister-in-laws told me something that I will never forget. My sister-in-law told me that she had gone to my father-in-law's apartment few weeks before he passed away. In the last month or two before my father-in-law passed away, my husband and his four siblings took turns caring for their father. On one visit, my sister-in-law said she noticed a lot of spoiled food in the refrigerator and decided to clean it out. When my sister-in-law asked my father-in-law for his permission to throw out the spoiled items in the refrigerator, he said yes but told her to save everything that came from me.

In some ways, what my sister-in-law told me that day brought me relief. Whenever I went to see him, I always tried my best to make him feel comfortable and made him things that I considered healthy like vegetable soups and fruit smoothies. His favorites were banana and mango smoothies. He always showed his appreciation by thanking me but I never knew how much it had meant to him. My father-in-law was a man of few words. We held short conversations but I never got to know him well as I would have liked. So, it came as a surprise to hear that perhaps my small efforts made a difference in his life. I was touched beyond words, and it gave me some comfort knowing that he had enjoyed my brief visits.

Along with some comfort, it also brought me sadness. I can't help wonder if he wanted to save those things I left in the refrigerator because he was waiting for me to come back to make his favorite things again or was he wanting to save them out of respect for my efforts? I will never know...

I already miss him very much and his love for my mango smoothie. I will never forget the kind smile on his tired face as he enjoyed his last mango smoothie few weeks before he passed away. As weak as he was, he sat up on his bed to enjoy the smoothie I had made for him, and when I asked him if he was enjoying it, he said "mm-hmm" with such a content that I almost broke out in tears. I knew that was going to be the last time I would have the privilege to make him his favorite mango smoothie. My smoothies had brought us closer in a way that I never knew and I'm so grateful for the time we shared.

My wonderful parents-in-law, Stan and Raylene Sturges

This post is dedicated to the two of the most wonderful people I have ever known, Stan and Raylene Sturges.



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