This short essay, written in 2007 as a scholarship entry, is a tribute to Francis L. Smith, better known to all as, “Jewel”. She was my mother-in-law, “mom”, friend, – but most importantly, my inspiration.
My decision to continue a tradition wasn’t conscious; my prerequisite of leaving others happier than I found them wasn’t my creation. These principles were handed down to me – not on purpose, surely not by accident – by my mother-in-law, “Jewel”.
My first impression of Jewel was duplicated every time I witnessed her; her influence was patience, grace and mercy. Jewel rarely complained: her commitment was responsible and sincere. I immediately realized that I wanted to be near someone like this and I later envisioned myself in her “role” – enabling others to feel as comfortable and accepted as I had.
I was 18 years old when I met Jewel. Her generous smile and easy nature immediately captured my attention. During my first visit, Jewel and I looked at old pictures of her son -my future-husband – and talked about Jewel’s family while we shared cold, sweet tea. I found myself both solaced and delighted by her words and soothing manner.
Jewel’s patient words were rivaled only by her attentiveness: I knew that anything I had to say would be acknowledged, believed and accepted. In Jewel’s world, advice was given only when requested; criticism and negativity didn’t exist. Many times, after talking with Jewel about one of my “horrible” problems, I could leave her house – enlightened and “lightened”, laughing as I walked through her screen door.
My mother-in-law, “my Jewel”, passed away just last year; missing her has not become any easier. I miss the compassion, approval, laughter and examples that Jewel gave me.
Jewel resides in those examples. The “tradition” is now mine.