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Jacqueline Galdenzi: Sweet daughter-in-law left us much too soon

“Mum, I think I’m losing her.” These were the words my son said to me over the phone late one night not long ago, and my heart stopped.

Our son and his brilliant, witty, kooky, beautiful, loving wife of just two and a half years and their 10-month-old daughter had the world by the tail.

Their meeting, courtship, engagement, marriage and pregnancy were fast-tracked from the beginning. “Slow down, take it easy,” we thought. We worried that things were happening too fast. There seemed to be such urgency to it all. But they were so extremely happy, so well-suited, so enthusiastic about everything, we just smiled and went along for the ride.

My daughter-in-law’s favorite party trick was to take words or whole sentences and spell them backward at rapid-fire speed. Twice a national spelling bee finalist, she had a photographic memory and knew every lyric to every song she had ever heard.

I love to read and write, but this young woman’s skill with language and her love and knowledge of books was intimidating, except that it wasn’t. Although brighter than just about anyone she encountered, she would never dream of flaunting that incredible brain of hers. She had a beautiful, infectious smile and people fell in love with her instantly.

Shortly after marrying, she left a successful career to return to graduate school to earn her master’s degree in special education. She was born to be a teacher.

She became pregnant in that first year of marriage and had a picture-perfect pregnancy, but experienced an extremely difficult delivery with unexpected complications that put both her and the baby’s lives in grave danger. Eerily enough, when my son recounted the eventual safe delivery to me, he said, “Mum, I thought I was losing both of them.”

My daughter-in-law completed her degree and was happily spending the summer at home being a full-time mom until the school year started.

However, as my mother used to say, “Man plans and God laughs.”

Around the time she gave birth, a monster was taking up residency in her brain, a glioblastoma. I had never even heard the word before, but now know more than I ever want to about this demon. It is typically inoperable and always malignant and fatal.

Totally asymptomatic until three weeks before her death, she started having horrific, debilitating headaches. Late one evening our son called to tell us the unthinkable had happened. She had had a seizure, was unconscious and on her way to the hospital.

Unable to get a flight until the morning, my husband and I jumped in the car and drove eight hours to get to their side. But it was too late. The monster had burst, resulting in massive brain damage. Our darling girl was gone.

Our son shared four years and three months with this incredible woman. I swear they crammed more laughter, joy and adventure into that time than the average 20-year marriage. Our son is an amazing young man. I have never seen a grieving spouse handle himself with such dignity, grace and kindness toward others. And of course he has his beautiful baby girl with her mother’s intelligent blue eyes to help him heal.

I can’t help but question why things happened the way they did. Something bigger than the two of them knew they did not have a long future ahead and needed to get on with life – fast. For that, at least, I am grateful.

You are missed, sweet girl.