Many years ago, as a newlywed, I jokingly said to my mum that I bet she was glad she could stop worrying about me now I was married and had left home. Mum just gave a wry, cynical smile and said I didn’t know the half of it.
I didn’t, but I do now.
Just lately I have had many reasons to feel grateful for my family and count my blessings. It has seemed as if lurking around every corner of the town is a friend or acquaintance who is estranged from someone they love. Sons not talking to their fathers, daughters estranged from their mothers, acrimonious splits with husbands or partners, siblings who hate each other – I could go on, but the subject is so depressing, I won’t.
A couple of weeks ago I had a mildly upsetting experience which I won’t go into here. In a way, it made me smile though, because this person has got the wrong end of the stick completely. She referred to my ‘lovely non-judgemental mum’ which was partly true because mum believed that if you couldn’t say something nice about people you shouldn’t say it at all. Mum rolled out this wise mantra at least weekly for my entire life, often accompanied by a rolling of eyes and witty, casual remark that would make you almost roll on the floor, laughing! It was the things mum didn’t say that shouted the loudest. After all, we all know that mums and daughters don’t say lots of things to each other but the ribbons of silent understanding are strong, and bound up tightly in the invisible cord that joins us forever with our mothers.
I have a close friend who is never going to get closure on a dreadful situation she suffered in the past. I have commiserated, tried to say some words of comfort and my heart goes out to her. Her mother is dead and my friend is left behind, bereft and trying hopelessly to make sense of happy childhood memories -v-the anguish of a family rift later in her life. None of it was her fault, I should add, but the pain she is left with is terrible and threatens her enjoyment of what I see as a happy future in front of her, but all she can do is agonise over the past and ask why, why, why.
I am lucky. My immediate family is strong. My three children love each other. My husband and I have been married for thirty-eight years this year. Our little family of five has now grown to eleven and I am so proud of them all. I always wanted more children and now I feel as if I have six. We have tea together every Sunday night – yes, it’s hard work, but we all agree what we have is precious and much more valuable than material possessions, swanky holidays abroad or perfect homes.
This week one of us has suffered a devastating blow, health-wise. With hardly a single word being spoken, I can feel the love radiating from my little family, surrounding and giving the injured member the strength to recover. There is an old saying ‘cut one and we all bleed’. At the moment we are all bleeding, but the blood is not red. It is tasteless, colourless and without physical substance but its value cannot be calculated because there is no currency with which it can be evaluated. It is like we are all giving the injured member of our family a transfusion to aid their recovery.
It would be easy to say that, this week, our family has been very unlucky. I’m not going to say that, though. We have been lucky because now each and every one of us knows that life is precious and shouldn’t be wasted with petty arguments, falling-out and bad words.
As St Augustine said:
Forgiveness is the remission of sins. For it is by this that what has been lost, and was found, is saved from being lost again.
So, if you are estranged from someone you love, a son, a daughter or a parent – remember St Augustine’s words and forgive them, find what has been lost and save it from being lost again. If you don’t, one day it will be too late.