Dear Dr. Respler:
When I read your May 25 column, Making Peace With Your Mother-In-Law, I started to cry, as I knew that the letter signer (Heartbroken Daughter-in-Law) was my daughter-in-law. We always discuss your column, and I guess it was her way of delivering a message to me.
Now here’s my side of the story. Other than acknowledging that I am the mother-in-law in that column, I will not supply any other details, so that no one will be able to identify me. Before the ballgame my daughter-in-law referred to, I was diagnosed with cancer. My situation has the doctors in a quandary. Some want to operate; others are opting for radiation/chemotherapy. They all agree that since it is early-stage cancer, surgery is preferable; however, due to my other health problems, they are uncertain that I would survive the surgery. Therefore, they are leaving the decision to me.
The diagnosis came shortly before the situation concerning the ball game. My husband got another ticket since I said that I had never been to a ballgame and wanted to experience one before I died. As death is on my mind all the time, I was so upset that I forgot to tell my daughter-in-law not to come with the kids (as she usually does when our husbands go to ballgames) – assuming that she would be understanding of my request. She was shocked when she arrived with the kids. For my part, I was so upset with my entire situation that I probably did not handle her reaction too well. You’ll remember that my son was upset and went home with his wife and kids, missing the game. When he came over the next evening we invited him to dinner, since we wanted to discuss my medical condition with him alone. He invited his wife to join us, but I was not yet ready to tell my daughter-in-law. So we informed our son about my situation over dinner, begging him to keep this secret.
When reading the column, I realized how much pain I had caused my daughter-in-law, who I truly love. Only then did I understand how confused she was by my behavior. When I immediately called her and told her what was going on, she began to cry. Then she invited us to come for Shavuos.
I’m writing this letter after an amazing Yom Tov. My daughter-in-law prepared an incredible amount of food (she made all of my favorites), with all kinds of surprises. She tried so hard to make me feel special, and is saying extra Tehillim on my behalf. Many rabbanim to whom we’ve spoken have given us brachos and have told us not to go public, since a nes nistar (hidden miracle) is preferable to hoping for a nes galui (open miracle). Thus we’re being urged to keep my health situation a private matter.
I know that when you often write about onas devarim (hurtful speech), you always mention the book, Positive Word Power, by the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation. I realized that I engaged in onas devarim in the way I treated my daughter-in-law.
Thank you for running my daughter-in-law’s letter. I hope you run mine as well so people will know that there was another side to this story. (It will also help to improve our level of communication.) I wish to reiterate that I really love my daughter-in-law and have apologized for any pain I caused her. She is very upset about my circumstance, and with the love she has shown me I don’t know why I did not tell my son and daughter-in-law – together – about my plight.
I hope Hashem helps me overcome my situation.
Your letter was truly heart wrenching.
When I ran your daughter-in-law’s letter it did not fully make sense to me, as I knew that I was missing part of the picture. So I asked her to speak to you in order to better understand the full picture.
Your painful story has taught me the importance of knowing the other side of a story. Yehudis Samet wrote one of my favorite books, The Other Side Of The Story, in which she attempts to help people find a way to dan chavercha lekaf zechus (judge others favorably) in cases of miscommunication. I often recommend that book to others. Your story, in fact, highlights how we often don’t completely understand a given situation.