My 24th entry in Amy Johnson Crow’s “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” family history blogging challenge for 2015.
The challenge: have one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor. It could be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem — anything that focuses on one ancestor.
Amy’s 2015 version of this challenge focuses on a different theme each week.
The theme for week 24 is – Heirloom: What heirloom do you treasure? Who gave it to you? What heirloom do you wish you had?
My 24th ancestor is my husband’s mother, Betty Sue Pace (d. 2002).
I met Betty decades ago, a couple of times, when my husband Jeff and I first became friends in college. But Betty died far too young, five years before Jeff and I re-met in 2007 (long-lost friends by that time), started dating in 2008, and married in 2009.
Betty was the youngest child of Roy Delmar Pace (1913-2000), from Texas, and Rebecca Haley (1916-1991), from Arkansas, the only one of their children born after Roy and Becky moved their young family to California from New Mexico. Betty and her siblings grew up in the California Central Valley.
So although Betty technically was/is my (first) mother-in-law, I never knew her as my mother-in-law. By the time Jeff and I became reacquainted with each other, Jeff’s father had remarried to the woman I have always known and loved as my mother-in-law. I have written before about Jeff’s wonderful stepmom. She was Betty’s best friend since childhood, and had been divorced a very long time when Betty became ill from the tragic disease that took her from us way too young. Knowing she was dying, Betty–as my husband likes to tell the story–selflessly “fixed up” his dad and her best friend. When Betty’s husband and best friend were ready to move on from their shared grief, they started dating and eventually married (read this heart-touching story).
Betty’s Teaching Bible
Betty had a very strong Christian faith, bringing her peace and comfort as she grew more ill, knowing the end was near. She was very active in serving through her church and in teaching Bible study during my husband’s childhood. Betty remained an active teacher and leader with Bible Study Fellowship, an international interdenominational organization, until her illness made her too weak to teach anymore.
When Jeff and I were dating, he showed me his mom’s teaching Bible, which his father gave to him after Betty died. The Bible is well worn, with all sorts of highlighted passages and notes in Betty’s hand.
After Jeff and I became engaged and started planning our wedding, we began pre-marital counseling with my family pastor. I had an idea. I wanted some tangible way to have Jeff’s mom Betty involved in our wedding ceremony. I remembered her Bible, and asked my pastor to marry us using Betty’s Bible instead of his own, explaining what that Bible meant to Betty.
As the wedding date approached, I asked Jeff to let his dad, mother-in-law, and brother know about us using Betty’s Bible in the ceremony. I did not want to catch Jeff’s family by surprise during the ceremony; Jeff and I wanted them to be emotionally prepared.
Pastor Gary made a point during the ceremony to talk about Betty’s Bible–about our request, and about the Bible’s significance. He told the wedding guests how worn and annotated the Bible was, and how obvious it was that Betty heavily and regularly used it. He told our guests what Jeff had shared during our counseling sessions…how much comfort this Bible brought to Betty as she sensed her death drawing near.
Tears were heavily shed by us and our guests.
I cannot pretend to know how much my husband, his brother, his father, and his stepmom still hurt from losing Betty–especially losing her so young. I realize I will experience that same hurt and grief someday, but I am fortunate to still have my mom with us. I do know that my husband would have given anything to have had his mother there with us, in person, at the wedding. So it brings me such joy to have found even just a tiny tangible way to have included Betty in our ceremony and special day.
Because of how much that Bible meant to Betty, what it means to my husband, and the role it played in our wedding, Betty’s Bible will forever be a cherished family heirloom.