We all have them…someone in the family that just does not think the way you do. Nothing, no amount of patient attempt to find a middle ground works when the other person never budges.
Years ago I married a man I had already known for 11 years. His upbringing was considerably different from mine and I suppose we each felt the other a bit “exotic” for those differences. We respected them and enjoyed exploring the concepts each brought to the marriage.
But I have come to realize that I had the pick of the litter. No one else in that family seems to be able to move off their spot to recognize that there are things of value to consider from another viewpoint.
Recently there was a facebook posting from one family member commemorating the loss of her husband, my brother-in-law. She chose to speak of the pain she still feels as she walks this life without him. People responded with “I’m sorry” and “I miss him too.”
I responded by telling her that this week of his passing, the anniversary of his death, his yahrzeit, is a big week in my family. It starts with us thinking about him, and then, only a few days later, it is my youngest son’s birthday. The day after that is the yahrzeit of my son’s father (her brother-in-law), and then two days later is my mother’s yahrzeit.
It occurred to me when my husband died (his passing was the first one) that my son might always associate his birthday with sorrow, so I decided we would instead celebrate the life we shared with each of our dear ones who have passed on. We have always taken some time to light the tradition yahrzeit candle and to speak quietly about the impact each has had in our lives.
My husband took me to meet his brother years before we were married. When we got to his home, we found him under his car, repairing some issue. He slid out, grabbed my arm, gave me a hug and then lead me inside. He washed his hands and then served me iced tea and only then, when we sat at the table talking, did I realize he was blind. His ability to live an active life despite his vision loss taught us that disability is an attitude. He became an even stronger role model later when my husband began to lose his abilities during his fight with brain cancer.
My mom, like many mothers, was a mix of good and not so good issues for me, but on her yahrzeit we focus on the things learned from her. She taught me to notice what needs to be done and not wait for instruction. While this has resulted in the lazy people around me often taking advantage of my effort, it has made me stand out to people who counted. My mom was active in helping others, not focusing on her own woes, in participating and learning and always making an effort to grow and improve. She and my dad took us camping to travel the United States, and while this later came to bite her when I moved away, she understood that the opportunity for self improvement was something not to be ignored just because of location.
My son’s father was one of the most honest men I have ever met. His ability to be thoughtful and kind translated into lifelong friendships. His work ethic meant giving the best service he could and he often, as an attorney, charged only a minimal amount over court costs and never earned more than $30,000 a year. He valued much more than money but solid teaching of right and wrong and always finding the positive. When we married I had two small children and he relished that he could finally be a father, and his joy in the birth of his son was immense. When his cancer was diagnosed less than two years later he swore he would live long enough for his son to remember him and he outlived the 3-5 year prediction and finally passed in his sleep the day after Sam’s 11th birthday.
So when I shared with my sister-in-law that I too had my losses this week and chose to celebrate these loved ones’ impact on me, I was surprised that she ignored my comment., She responded to everyone else who commiserated with her pain, however.
I can see her pathway is much different than mine and so, recognizing it takes all kinds to make this world work, I offer her my love and whatever strength she needs to keep walking her walk.
October 10, 2013 at 9:43 pm
Beth, a lifetime of wisdom in your blog. It is so you and needs to be something we are reminded on often, the joy of life instead of the pain of life! Thank you for sending.
October 11, 2013 at 7:13 am
Thank you Susan (miss you!!) There was one perspective that walking through the experience I had offered me: life is full of (pardon my French) shit. And what is shit, but manure? Manure helps things grow. And in the midst of all the pain, I started noticing the flowers that surrounded me. (Like you and John) It is those bright spots that help us continue our slogging through the mire that could pull us down, if we permit it. But I think I’m singing to to the choir here, although you would have chosen more elegant words. *HUGS*
October 10, 2013 at 4:04 pm
Beautiful post, Beth. Very moving and heartfelt.
October 10, 2013 at 6:11 pm
Thanks Laura. You and I have had some discussions around this issue…this time of year. Mom would be proud of us!
October 10, 2013 at 2:55 pm
So much food for thought here. Some great life lessons, too. I find that the older I get, the easier it is to let go of any bitterness or perceived slights. On the plus side (or in addition), I also find it a lot easier to make my own choices and not be pushed into things as much by others.
October 10, 2013 at 3:17 pm
The whole issue really is communication. My sister-in-law read the Facebook posting and responded, and I replied. Hopefully we have cleared the air. But, as you said, it is easier to let things go.
October 10, 2013 at 12:50 pm
Maintaining closeness and understanding isn’t always easy but working towards that love an understanding is always worth it.
October 10, 2013 at 3:17 pm
Communication is the key and the lack of it can lead to misunderstanding. She has contacted me after reading my post on Facebook and I think we have a better meeting of the minds.
October 10, 2013 at 11:01 am
Very thoughtful piece Beth.
I had just read a post on FB- one of my cousins birthday is today and he passed away several years ago from childhood diabetes. When we were children, we were inseperable. As adults, there was no common ground except the blood running through our veins. He chose a perplexing path in life, one I could not understand.
However, reading your blog has given me a chance to write about the fun we had as children, instead of just “liking” the post and being indifferent. Thank you.
October 10, 2013 at 11:10 am
Thanks Tina. We can never really understand how another person makes their choices…you with your cousin or me with my sister-in-law. To them it seems the thing to do. They may feel unhappy but also powerless to make any changes. I can only guess because of the family’s reaction when I remarried that they considered me disloyal to my beloved husband who died. I remember my parents mentioning when someone they knew remarried after losing a spouse, that it was a great sign that the prior marriage had been happy. The faith that joy could be found again walking with someone was not a turning your back to the prior person but an honor of what they gave you. My current husband, Graham, is another person and does not replace what I had with Dave, but brings new joys and new experiences that I most likely would never have had. For your cousin, he may have felt the diabetes was a death sentence and so believed there was no need to do whatever would have made his choices more closely aligned with yours. I’m of course just guessing, but perhaps it may give you some insight.
October 10, 2013 at 10:09 am
Hi, Beth – What a lovely & insightful piece! Thank you for sharing. You know my mother would never have won any ‘mother-of-the-year’ awards, given her addiction issues and poor life choices (i.e., abusive relationships). But, I have always chosen to remember my mother’s good attributes, and forget the rest. She taught me how to cook, she encouraged me in my chosen profession, and she willingly assisted with our daughter’s early childhood care. She also taught me that stubbornness is not always a negative trait, because it sometimes provides you with the will and ability to move forward with your life regardless of what life throws at you. Your point is well taken that how we choose to remember those who have impacted our life is very much a reflection on the person doing the ‘remembering.’ I choose to remember the best things in life, and try to let go of the rest. – liz
Elizabeth (LIZ) Hance
Date: Thu, 10 Oct 2013 15:15:34 +0000 To: email@example.com
October 10, 2013 at 10:12 am
Yes, you know all too well some of the issues I had with my mom, but as an adult it is time to let them go and move on. We are who we are because of the people who have walked with us in our lives.