Family Affairs

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Those of you who’ve ever read any of my blogs know that whatever I have to say comes straight from the heart.  I may not be the most eloquent about it, but my solid belief is that as long as the message comes straight from the heart then the method of delivery shouldn’t ever be an issue for as long as some sort of respect level is maintained.

Recently I lost my older (and only) brother to a brain aneurysm that apparently runs in the family.  It killed my mother back in 1977 when she was 50 and now my brother at 56.  I am 44, closing in on 45.  I have a condition called AVM (Arteriovenous Malformation) and it’s situated in a manner where it’s deemed inoperable.  Too dangerous and even if successful it would render me 100% deaf and possibly even brain damaged.  Although I don’t mind being deaf as this is what both my parents were, but the brain damage is not something I want to risk.

Nope, I’d rather deal with the cards God has given me.  Whatever my fate will be so be it.  However, whatever happens to take place within my life in the meantime are all moments that have a profound impact on how I remember yesterday, get through today and gear up for tomorrow.

Death is a touchy subject even at the best of times.  If there is any one event that brings more people together it is the death of a loved one, which is usually followed by a service that allows people the opportunity to come together and honor that person the best way they know how.  It is also a chance to meet up with family and friends that you likely wouldn’t see otherwise and although the daily communication may not be there, the family bond is.  Some may see it as a phoney display of hypocrites but I see it otherwise.  Everybody mourns in their own way.  Everybody deals with grief in their own way.  Everybody goes about their business their own way.  All of it is just fine for as long as there is one core agreement that we are all human beings living in a world that is every bit as perplexing as we are.

On that note, as much as death can bring people together it can also create rifts so deadly that they can split families apart without mercy.  Death is an extremely traumatic and emotional experience, especially by those who are affected by it most.  Quite often the best intentions are seen as hostile and can trigger a reaction that nobody sees coming.  Because of this shock and confusion sets in.  Combine that with the feelings of despair, fatigue and loss it can serve as an emotional tornado.

What do tornadoes do when in full force?  They do damage.  Anything and everything in it’s path is fair game and once that trail of destruction has run it’s course the devastation of it’s impact serves as a reminder just how vulnerable we really are.  Although life does indeed go on, the bottom line is the damage is done.  The memory of that storm remains and the remnants of what it leaves behind serves as painful reminders of what happened.

This is what happens to families when something as powerful as a death occurs.  This is what has been happening to my family and it is painful to watch.  I was only seven years old when my mother died and even then I remember the division that resulted from it.  When my father died fifteen years later I was just shy of turning 23 years old.  What I witnessed upon his death was a massive division between my family members that to this day I’ve never recovered from.

My family is not the only one to experience this.  Maybe yours has got this kind of dirty laundry too.  I know my best friend did.  After her grandmother died the eruption that exploded from that made even my family woes seem pale in comparison.  At least until recently.  I’m seeing sides to certain family members I never saw coming and it is truly gut-wrenching.

I have to admit I was not as close to my brother as I would have liked.  We share the same mothers, but not the same fathers.  He is 10 1/2 years older than I am and was mostly brought up by my grandmother.  As I said, my mother died when I was just a kid.  My father did the best he could to raise me but I did not make it easy on him.  I was a young adult when I lost him to a stroke that literally ate away at him until there was nothing left.

I could go on about how my life was like, but that’s maybe for another time if I ever feel like bringing it up.  Right now this blog post is about family and how important it is for every member of it to find a way to stick together, even if there are a few members within that want no part of it.  It has been my experience that those who alienate us the most are usually the ones who are more damaged on the inside and needs the up most patience and understanding.  For me it is a personal rule to never turn my back on anyone, even if a situation warrants it.  I will, however, give such a person distance for the benefit of literally everyone that has any form of involvement in our lives.  This is how I’ve normally been since my father died.  I’m often told this is a character flaw because I tend to hurt myself each time I put other people before me.  It’s a 24/7 thing for me because quite honestly I almost never care what happens to me.  I’m way more interested in what happens to those I care about.  It’s not unusual for me to do the same with a stranger in need either.  My attitude about this approach is simple.  How in the world can I possibly be happy if those around me are not?

This is especially true when it comes to my family.  I know how the old cliche goes about how you cannot choose your own family.  Although that is true I also firmly believe you do have the power to choose how you take part in that family.  Do you turn your back on it simply because it doesn’t mesh with who you are?  Or, do you try to find a way to make it work even if it’s at a measurable distance to avoid conflict?  For me, turning my back on anyone is not an option.  It’s a cop out.

There is no such thing as a perfect family.  There will always be the oddball, or black sheep, but just because they are that doesn’t mean they are deserving to be cast out.  On that same note, if you are the black sheep you do not have the right to cast your entire family out simply because neither of you can see eye to eye.

As another cliche goes; to err is human, to forgive is divine.

That is so true, especially when it comes to family.  People make mistakes.  It is what makes us human.  However, failure to acknowledge or even forgive those mistakes is what strips away our humanity within.  Hatred makes us cold and this hatred spreads like a cancer.  If that hatred is fueled or remains untreated it spreads, leading to a family feud that could have otherwise been avoided if people just learned to set their anger aside and just made the effort to talk to each other.  Try to understand why not everybody sees things your way.  While doing that make an effort to love them for it because we are all individuals.  We each have our own personalities that make us unique and yes, that is going to cause some clashes.

However, how do you want the end result to be?  Do you want to hold a grudge that will eat away at you for the rest of your life no matter how much you deny it?  Or, would you rather learn to let go and find a common ground in an effort to mend the broken fences that resulted from the fighting?  It doesn’t matter how many times you fight  or how many times you have to mend those fences.  It’s the effort that counts.

Families fight.  The difference between broken families and strong families is how those within choose to handle their battles.  Those who refuse to compromise, listen to reason or even just learn how to forgive and forget will doom themselves and those they love most to a fate that is the equivalent to death.  As for those who always find a way to work things out no matter how difficult and unappealing that may be actually find rewards just in the effort alone.  This is what defines a true family.  This is what defines humanity.

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