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Family means putting your arms around each other and being there—but does that describe your family?
It definitely describes mine, so it saddens me that it doesn’t pertain to more folks out there. Family unity, that essential foundation of human happiness, can transform the bitter experiences of life into joy.
I recall people remarking in awe about how “selfless” my sister and I were each time we dropped everything, put our lives on hold and took care of our ailing parents, or that I spent better than a month in California to help when her husband was hospitalized. We were dumbfounded when folks told us that their family members would not have done it. Maybe that’s because we didn’t feel selfless at all—in fact, we felt blessed to care for them. It was a privilege. I did it for my mother-in-law, so of course I was there for my parents and my sister.
The Baha’i teachings tell us that:
… the importance of marriage lieth in the bringing up of a richly blessed family … – Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 120.
Recently, following my brother-in-law’s initial hospitalization for bleeding in his spinal column, my husband, Don, and I rushed to California where we spent two weeks helping my sister, Sandy and her husband Henri. Just as they were beginning to divest themselves of the accumulations from 51 years in the same house, and about to start packing up what they’ll keep as they downsize into a retirement hotel for active seniors, Henri was hospitalized and endured four surgeries in a period of just three weeks, two for bleeding in the spine and two for cranial bleeding.
Their three children, all attorneys with intense work schedules, each made the time to support their parents: being at the hospital during surgeries, taking turns staying overnight on a cot in his room (where they couldn’t sleep because he didn’t), and conscientiously creating a schedule that ensured at least one of them, preferably two, were available on the weekends, despite the fact that they all have heavy travel itineraries. When he had been in a rehabilitation facility for a few days and seemed stable, Don and I went home.
When I called to tell Sandy we’d returned safely, she announced that Henri was back in the hospital about to have a second craniotomy because he was bleeding again. I said I’d come back but she insisted she had plenty of support. However, a few days later my son called to say, “Your sister really needs you. I’m coming to get you.” Coming to get me meant driving eight hours from his home in California, about 70 miles north of where my sister lived, to pick me up in Arizona and then drive me back to her home—where she and I spent our days and evenings at the hospital, and our nights sorting and packing so she could be out of the house they had just sold.
Our family is truly blessed. Not only did immediate family step up, but in-laws and cousins did, too. It brings to mind this line from the M*A*S*H television episode, Identity Crisis, “I don’t care how poor a man is; if he has family, he’s rich.”
I’m so happy that our rich and blessed family exemplifies this description by Abdu’l-Baha:
Note ye how easily, where unity existeth in a given family, the affairs of that family are conducted; what progress the members of that family make, how they prosper in the world. Their concerns are in order, they enjoy comfort and tranquillity, they are secure, their position is assured, they come to be envied by all. – Ibid., p. 279.
No matter what your troubles, tests and challenges in life, and especially when your thoughts are filled with bitterness and pain, I wish such blessings for each of you.