If we are friends, you know that I've not blogged in a while because of work. I took on more responsibilities with a client and it required travel and most of my energy. What little energy I had left went straight to my family. All my hobbies and outlets took a backseat for a while.
That's since transitioned so now, if I feel so inspired, I want to pick up the proverbial pen again and blog here and there. Maybe I'll do a house update soon for fun.
For today though, it's about a much deeper topic than food or design. It goes along with my faith and is a tough lesson I recently learned. In January my mother-in-law, Carmen AKA "Mimi" died suddenly at the age of 70. She had a heart attack from an enlarged heart. She hated doctors so she never went and thus never knew about her heart condition.
It's been a huge blow to our family. The loss has been felt on a daily basis and in some ways, it's still surreal. I still look out the window and expect to see her pulling in the driveway.
Now those of you who are close to me may think "she drove you crazy, though. Right?"
Yes. She drove me nuts. On a regular basis. It was not secret and I know I drove her crazy too.
We were COMPLETE opposites in almost every way. That drove us to have quite the numerous amount of differences on a consistent basis. As in daily. Those differences started even from the beginning.
Daniel and I had counseling early on in our marriage over all the differences and how best to set boundaries, address the issues and manage the family relationships. The Lord healed and restored our family.
But that's not the point of this blog (although it's a great topic).
The point of this blog is to share what I learned through her death and what I wish I had done differently. It's always easier to see things after the fact. You know the old "hindsight is 20/20" adage.
1. Don't let differences skew your view of their true character.
I often focused on the frustration she caused me THAT DAY versus remembering her heart condition and WHY she did what she did.
When we were at the funeral, I was overwhelmed by the amount of people that came to pay their respects. People from all over came to share how much she blessed their lives. The Banker who cried when we went by to take care of some estate business. She had just brought them cookies two days earlier. The sweet lady who cleans and helps at the local Chick-fil-A where Carmen was always kind to her. Teachers from the preschool where she spent volunteer time, often praying and encouraging them.
The list goes on and on. I had no idea she was praying weekly with a school prayer group specifically for my boys. I only focused on the moment, our differences or her quirkiness that I found weird at times. I often forgot to see how much she loved, encouraged and prayed for everyone around her, now matter how they played a part in her life.
2. Give grace.
I was so frustrated two days before she died because she asked if she could pick up some chocolate drink mix. I said yes but to bring it next time she came over. I didn't want her coming back over later that night because it was getting late. That was more selfish on my part. She instantly went and bought the mix and took it to Daniel at work, knowing she was going around my wishes. Did my wishes really matter? Nope. And that annoyed me. I even called her to ask her why she couldn't just wait to give it to us later.
In hindsight, it was just my controlling nature and it frustrated me. I neglected to see that she was just eager to help. I was quick to react and let my emotions frustrate me rather than give grace.
That's the last interaction I had with Carmen.
Before you react or blow something out of proportion, ask yourself, will this really matter in a month, in a year, in several years?
3. Accept your differences.
It's OK to have differences! Differences teach. Our differences often taught me patience. They taught me how to be more compassionate. They taught me more about forgiveness.
I learned to accept that she and I were complete opposites. It didn't mean it was always easy, don't get me wrong. But in accepting we were different, it allowed for our family to heal and function together. If you need a little time to calm your emotions, take it. But don't let it go on for too long.
4. Remember who else is involved.
So often we let the differences between family members separate us. I'm not talking about life threatening, unsafe or other very unhealthy situations. I'm talking about the typical family squabbles. And we had our share! She almost didn't come to our wedding it was so bad! Too many times we blow them up to such an epic proportion that it becomes easier to distance ourselves than deal with the issue.
If we had not let God heal our family, my boys would have missed out on someone who loved them unconditionally. They would have missed out on her quirkiness, on her Cuban cooking (that they still ask for), on her silliness, on her loving back scratches, on singing silly songs together, on snuggles...on her love.
5. You can't get time back.
Carmen died on a Wednesday morning. I remember distinctly thinking Tuesday night as I cleaned up dinner "I should have invited her for tacos tonight. Tacos are her favorite. I need to let go that she annoyed me yesterday and have her over tomorrow."
Guess what? It was too late. She died the very next morning.
We always think we have more time.
If you have long standing differences with a family member, don't wait to work on reconciliation. We don't know what the next day will bring. Your frustration today is not worth holding on to in the grand scheme of things. Take it from me. It may not be easy but you will never regret working towards harmony.
"Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone."
(Romans 12: 17-18)
We love her and will always miss her.