The network of love

When you think of a sibling so many thoughts and emotions come to mind, from childhood memories to knowing that no matter what—you have those special people to count on, as your unconditional best friends and lifelong partners in crime.

I have two brothers, I’m the oldest but I learned long ago that I look up to both of them…and not just because they are way taller than me. This week is my brother Peter’s birthday. We’re Irish Twins, same age for a week. Peter spoke at my wedding earlier this summer and did a remarkable job. He’s someone who thinks before he speaks and is careful with his words. He’s a deep thinker and an incredibly compassionate soul. I always kid him about being intellectual, but in all actuality I admire that about him. My respect for him continues to grow as we get older.

During his speech at my wedding he recounted his memories of a road trip he took from Chicago down to St. Louis in August 2015 so that he could be by my side as I prepped for major abdominal surgery.

As he drove down I-55 south, he passed through Springfield, Illinois and immediately he thought of that city as a place where I followed my dream and passion of broadcast journalism at WICS-TV. Then he got to thinking about all the miles I had traveled to follow my heart…Minnesota, Wisconsin, Chicago, Springfield and now St. Louis.

Here’s a snippet of Peter’s wonderful speech as he reflected on last summer’s surgery, “…Natalie has an amazing network of love. She has it because she wants it and because she deserves it.

When I arrived at the hospital and opened the door to her room, she cried when she saw me. Much like her other visitors, I spent a few days in that hospital beside her, observing, listening, and praying. And in these quiet moments I witnessed the beautiful, sacred love between Natalie and Bobby. Oh, how she longed for him, and how delicately he combed her hair, and how patient they were for each other. And I’ll never forget when they parted before the surgery and then reunited after; these were glorious scenes to witness.

I drove home from St. Louis with peace, believing that things were going to be fine and knowing that this unconditional love of theirs would be celebrated with the network of love that means so much to them. I’m inspired by their story and how it grows. I suggest that we all be mindful of our journeys and remember that distance should lead to within and not without…”

This network of love Peter speaks of rings true for anyone battling a chronic illness. Having a support system to hold you up when you don’t have the strength to get out of bed is invaluable.

Everyone deserves support—but it’s a balance—being there in the good times and the bad, because you want to. Whether it’s a simple text message, flowers, or visit—it’s always remembered. At the time, the thought may cross your mind… “I wonder how she’s doing?”…”I’m going to say a prayer that her surgery goes well.”… “I’d like to visit and see her.”… we all have busy lives, but when those thoughts cross your mind try your best not to ignore them and follow through.

What may seem like a short visit or an “annoying” text is not—it shows you care. If you think of reaching out and are praying for feel good days for a loved one or a friend but don’t articulate it, your family member or friend will never know and honestly just think you’re too busy or don’t really care.

Your loved one who is battling an illness is not screaming out for attention or wanting sympathy but it’s nice to know your friends and family have your back and are interested in your well-being. When you’re alone in a hospital room or struggling in pain on the couch sidelined from a friend’s get together …it’s easy to feel alone. In those moments when people who claim to be your closest confidants, loved ones and friends don’t reach out—it makes you start to question just how much you truly mean to that person.

Since I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 2005 there have been countless hospital stays, rough days and ER visits. If you ask me—I could tell you each person who has ever visited me at home or in the hospital, each person who has sent a care package, flowers or a card and each person who has reached out. These are moments you always remember.

My brother Peter captured it so perfectly—it’s a network of love—knowing this beast of an illness isn’t something I need to fight on my own takes away so much of the burden. So the next time someone is going through a difficult time, no matter what the issue—when you think of someone—don’t hesitate, be there—whatever way you can.

Peter turns 32 this Wednesday. Knowing I have someone like him in my network of love and as a family member, someone who always puts others first, makes me feel like anything is possible. Take this time to think of your network of love, and always remember to appreciate those who lift you up when the going gets tough.

Check out Peter’s blog.

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