One of the rules of my dating life was that if a man's mother liked me, eventually he'd break up. 

In a few cases, it happened fast. As in my relationship with Aaron (not his real name),whose mother I met unexpectedly. Aaron had always insisted that we weren't really going out -- despite the fact that he showed extreme jealousy when a friend of his came on to me. So I was more than a little surprised when he told me he had to. break up with me, after a "friendship" of four years. 

I asked why this was necessary -- when we weren't going out. He didn't give me a direct answer, only saying that his mother wanted to know why he wasn't marrying me because the objections he had had ("She's overweight," "She's funny-looking") to other women didn't apply to me. At least that's what his mother said. Anyway, the end result was that he felt he either had to marry me, or break up with me. And guess what he did?

Ironically, he was the person I ran into on the way to meeting my mother-in-law for lunch. Meeting her for the first time. I was sure two courses lay ahead of me: either she would like me and my fiancĂ© would break up with me, or else she wouldn't, and the relationship would stand. 

Well, considering I've been married to her son for more than 30 years, and I got along with her just fine, this was the only time in my life that my original assumption didn't materialize. 

Why am I thinking of this now? Today is the anniversary of my mother-in-law's death. Jews celebrate birthdays as much as anyone else -- especially certain birthdays, such as bar and bat mitzvah -- but their culture places greater value on the day of people's deaths. The reasoning is that we don't know the measure of a person's life until that person is gone. 

I remember being in a meeting that day , and after it was over, a particularly sympathetic participant asked me how my mother-in-law was. The second I left the meeting my cell phone rang. It was my brother-in-law telling me that she had passed away. 

We got along very well, despite the major differences between us. The one thing I will always remember and feel grateful for is that my mother-in-law frequently said that she had four children, two more than the biological ones. That she loved my brother-in-law and me as much as her own children. And she meant it. She would gather us her bosom and give us massive hugs.