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.