Ma Belle-Mere

Posted: October 11, 2009 in 1
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Amanda Elizabeth Willis,

whose initials and profession I share, has been my mother for the last 38 years. She quickly dispelled rumours about mothers-in-law by welcoming me very warmly into her family as Ted’s wife and then as the mother of her grandchildren, a true place of honour in her heart. When I joined her profession shortly thereafter, and she added mentoring me into teaching to mentoring me into motherhood, the deal was sealed.

In the early years of our marriage, it seems we spent a lot of time living on Garden Avenue, either in the big house at 1789 or in the tiny house across the street. I am sure that’s where my environmental activism and true love of spiders were solidified. Every indoor spider was lovingly named Charlotte by Betty



and placed outside to carry on its work. Tea leaves were fed directly to ferns, sword fernacid-loving plants (did she just instinctively know that this was the right soil enhancer for them?) While others were grooming lawns and gardens against nature, Betty and Bill were working with nature in their garden. Now naturescaping is de rigeur – Betty was a woman ahead of her time.

Betty was a thoroughly modern woman. To some of you this may come as a surprise to hear it, but it is true. She embraced change and understood that new ideas and new technology were inevitable and to be evaluated rather than discarded. This was especially so with ideas which she loved to discuss. As time went by, she became more and more open to new ones, always willing to modify an opinion based on new information. Betty developed little wise sayings which I quote frequently. These were based on her own life experiences and the one which most affected her own life decision was . “People don’t grow older, they grow more so.” With that belief in mind, Betty, I believe, chose to hone her life focus on her beliefs: kindness, positive thinking, family, and intellectual thought. She became more so every day…still my mentor, ever my role model. She quietly affected those around her by taking control of situations with her innate Conflict Resolution skills whether in the classroom or at the dinner table at Harmony Court Care Centre. Her positive attitude attracted people to her and she became a favorite of the staff at the Care Centre.

Betty was a loving mother and grandmother. How lucky I was to be part of that nest. Whenever there was a crisis, Betty was there for me. As my health failed, she was the one who initially managed doctors and hospitals, even if it was by phone. She taught me how to navigate a medical system and advocate for others within it. When I ended up an invalid after an unexpected surgery, my teenaged children packed me off to Betty and Bill’s for tender loving care in the family home. The nursing skills she learned from her mother were always at hand. What good fortune I had to have acquired a second mother, loving and wise, caring and sweet… who aged like fine wine, but I can hear her voice gently say, “I would prefer fine cheese, dear”. The French use the word belle-mere, beautiful mother for this special relationship – the mother of one’s spouse. My Betty, my dear sweet gentle, wise belle-mere. Thank you for all you gave to me and others during your life. You are missed but always with me. I will try to age as gently and kindly as did you, my role model…

  1. Vince Montgomery says:


    You loving words and zest for life honor Betty. You honor her again, by setting an example we all learn from, an example she tenderly nurtured and helped grow; for that we all owe her a debt of boundless respect and thanks.


  2. Pooh says:

    “To live in the hearts of those we leave behind is not to die.” It is clear that your mother-in-law has a great big space in your heart. So sorry for your loss , Elaine.


  3. Ruth A. says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your loving tribute to your Mum-in-law….it absolutely made my day complete. Your words reflect so much fullness of heart for someone so special in your life.
    Thank you.

  4. Elaine, so true that ‘belle-mere’ reflects your relationship with this wonderful woman so much better then the English word ‘mother-in-law’ (sounds cold).

    Thank you for sharing your tribute to her with us, it was a beautiful read.

    And my condolences and I am very sorry for your loss

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