I once told my husband that after he died, I would cease to exist as far as his family was concerned. They always seemed off-putting and distant to each other as blood relatives. I couldn’t imagine them caring enough to get to know me, an American, after he, a Scotsman, was gone.

We had only seen each other a handful of times. Our only common link was my husband. Without him, I didn’t think they would want to interact with someone they barely knew.

When Mike died last December I had no plans for what to do next. Throughout his illness, I hadn’t even thought about the minute after he passed away.

My in-laws suggested I come to Scotland to spend the holidays with his family. All of a sudden, I knew I needed to be with them and was shocked by the pull I felt toward Scotland. I did what I had to do to get there and was able to do so by Christmas Eve.

On the day of my departure, I was on the bus from Portland to Boston and desperately wanted to get off and catch the next one back home. I didn’t, only because of my need to feel my husband through his family.

I wasn’t sure what to expect because of the once-distant relationship my husband had with his brother. They began to re-develop a close relationship really only since Mike’s diagnosis, and spent quality time together here in Maine creating a bond they hadn’t known since childhood.

My arrival in Scotland was emotional and raw. The warmth I felt from my in-laws, however, felt gentle and kind. I sank into their embrace and felt a renewal of strength in the pit of my stomach.

My brother-in-law listened through my tears. I felt safe. My pain became more contained, not bleeding all over my surroundings. I felt Mike’s strength in him.

My sister-in-law looked past emotional tears and dried them with kind words and her ability to segue my thoughts to the beautiful Scottish scenery we saw on our daily walks with their dogs, Monty and Fergal.

My husband’s nephews showed an eagerness to get to know me and, more importantly, allowed me to get to know them and to see the similarities each has with their uncle.

Sometimes we think we know people and how relationships will progress, to a dead end or a close bond. In my case, I was lovingly surprised in my time of grief.

I can’t wait to go back to Scotland in May for the marriage of my husband’s oldest nephew, who I now consider my nephew.

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