A Eulogy for My Enemy {Take Heart…in Kinship and Community}

Today in our Take Heart series, an anonymous friend shares about how God helped her mend a difficult relationship with her mother-in-law…just in time.


eulogy experiment

They were like dirty dishes stowed away in the cupboard, these thoughts and feelings we had about each other. We’d meet up on Christmas and birthdays or when she and my father-in-law would take to remodeling my kitchen. The woman and I knew how to play out the ideal. We’d go for the mandatory hug, but usually we’d look past each other or down at the floor, pulling the shutters over the windows of our souls.

She told me early on that she hoped my free-spirited ways would rub off on her, help her be a little less Type A, but as life brought changes our way, I found her wanting to change me.

We moved away for my husband’s education, followed the path of changing careers, watched the bills stack up and the money drain, struggled with infertility, then discovered our son was on the autism spectrum. As we tried our best to tackle our troubles, my mother-in-law would fight us on our decisions, often acting more like an enemy than an ally.

Somewhere along the line I started keeping a mental list of all the ways she’d wronged me, all the things she’d mumbled about me, all the things I wanted to change about her. I had once called her spunky and energetic. Now I thought of her as pushy and obnoxious. She hadn’t been on my side. Now I wasn’t on hers.

Then I got the call. I left the dishes to soak in the sink and grabbed a towel on my way to pick up the phone. My med-student husband choked out the news of the diagnosis. His mom. Breast cancer. Stage four.

As her body weakened, so did my grudge. I guess the shadow of death will do that to you, soak you in grief, soften your harsh memories, scrub you clean.

I felt the inner working of Jesus words: “…Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you…”

As I saw my mother-in-law in all her vulnerability, I wanted to bless her, to speak well of her, to praise her strengths and let my gripes drain away.

The word “bless” sounds sweet to our ears, but in the original language it comes to us strong…we are to “eulogeō” our enemies, to consider both their mortality and ours and to honor them with kind words covering a multitude of sin, same as we would when asked to give a eulogy for the deceased.

It was then that I started keeping a list of a different kind…all the things I liked about her, the things I was going to miss. This time, I wrote it all down: her generosity, her devoted grandparenting, our mutual obsession over a cup of hot tea.

I kept adding to the list, my joy increasing with each blessing recorded. And as her time drew near, I folded it up and sent it her way.

After she passed, my father-in-law pulled the letter from inside the cover of her Bible and told me how in her final days she had read the list over and over again, and how she had begun verbalizing her own list of things she liked about me. No more dirty dishes in the cupboard.

A few days later, as friends and family settled somber and silent in their chairs, I took a tissue to dry up the tears that had fallen on the page. There, in front of the open casket and all these loved ones, I read my list out loud, a eulogy to my former enemy.

(narrated by Anonymous, written by Darcy Wiley)

{How has becoming aware of a particular person’s vulnerability changed your heart toward a difficult relationship? In what friendship or family relationship can you practice the eulogy experiment today?}


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Take Heart Series ~ Feb 2013This post is part of our Take Heart series. This week we’re talking about hard times in kinship and community. We’d love to hear how God has helped you take heart in the midst of your own struggles. Start writing and share your post in our link-up tomorrow. And our winner of last week’s giveaway from Amanda Lynne Designs is…Elizabeth Anne May! Visit the shop and get 20% off of your purchase when you use the code “design20” at the check out today.

4 thoughts on “A Eulogy for My Enemy {Take Heart…in Kinship and Community}

  1. That’s a powerful message I will be mulling over. Counting gifts when it comes to my mother-in-law is necessary but will honestly be difficult. I don’t consider her my enemy but I’ve given up any hope of a real relationship with her. This post is good for me.

    • Someone needs to write a love dare book for family relationships. ;) I know soooo many people who struggle in this. It’s tough to know how hard to try, how open and vulnerable to be, etc. Different personalities and situations call for different responses, I think. Sometimes we need to set boundaries. Sometimes we need to put our all into a relationship. For me, my friend’s story was a good reminder that whether or not my relationships are ideal, I need to think of those difficult people in their more vulnerable form and speak words of blessing both in the presence of those people and in thoughts/conversations when I’m absent from them.

      • Not just a challenge in their presence but away as well? Seriously, Darcy?! I hear you. I just don’t like it. That’s all. I don’t like a lot of things that are good for me, though.

        • I hear YOU. I don’t like it either! I guess the first step is to be quiet, then pray for the gumption to say something lovely. I’m still in the quiet stage in some precarious relationships. Eek.

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