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First Things First!

13/08/2015 14:09 BST | Updated 12/08/2016 10:59 BST

Mother-in-laws have borne the brunt of many a joke and are a universal topic of misplaced humour for comedians. Perhaps some are justified, but I suspect the majority of mother-in-laws don't deserve the harsh portrayal dished out at their expense. I felt compelled to set the record straight and tell you about an extraordinary mother-in-law, a lady who came into my life 27 years ago.

One normally meets future in-laws with great trepidation, but having fallen in love hook line and sinker with my husband-to-be, meeting his folks was merely confirmation that he came from a loving close-knit family. At first I was met with an amount of suspicion, and grilled in a manner fitting of the Spanish Inquisition! Through love and concern, they no doubt wanted to ensure that this high spirited young woman, born with Gaucher disease, had honourable intentions! It was no surprise to me that they hadn't heard of Gaucher (a rare genetic disorder), and I understood their genuine reservations, but once they realised my husband and I were well and truly smitten with each other, it was a fait accompli, and I was welcomed into the family with open arms.

My parents-in-law were both young at heart, full of energy and enthusiasm, would venture out every day, no matter what the weather, and inevitably find somewhere nice for refreshments. A saying of theirs I came to love, which my husband and I fondly use on occasion, "first things first" - meaning upon arriving at your destination, find somewhere for a cup of coffee before doing anything else. Sounds like a good idea, don't you think?

There are certain wonderful memories that stick firmly in my mind and one particular occasion always makes me smile. Some years ago, my parents-in-law were staying with us during a particularly wet winter. We'd decided to visit a craft market and naturally have "first things first" at a little café where one can watch the world go by. It turned out to be very bad weather that day, with torrential rain, turning the streets into fast running shallow rivers of swirling dirty rain water. My parents-in-law never allowed the weather to dictate or perturb them from plans and wouldn't hear of stopping in for the day. So we all dressed up in rainproof clothing, but my mother-in-law, the epitome of an English lady with beautiful snow white hair, was missing a rain hat. With a little ingenuity and a sense of eccentric charm, she popped a plastic shower cap on her head and was ready to go! I can still remember the astonished looks on our faces and the uncontrollable laughter that ensued.

This was a lady with a keen sense of fun, light of foot winning gold medals for ballroom dancing in her youth, and who was the life and soul of a party. She loved babies and children with whom she had a great rapport, and was always ready to lend a hand with her beloved grandchildren. Generous to a fault, hospitable to the nth degree, in fact so much so, that her mother went to stay for the weekend and ended up staying 17 years - but that's another story!

I consider myself fortunate to have many cherished memories to hold onto. My mother-in-law was part of a generation that are fast disappearing and sadly a few days ago, she slipped silently away at the grand age of 93, and will be sorely missed by her loving family and friends.

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