Thanks to my brother, Peter, for his guest post this week about what it means to watch your sister who’s battled a chronic illness for nearly 12 years…become a mom:
It is common for people to imagine being a spouse or parent. This desire is understandable and probably dynamic, fluctuates as one ages without marriage or child. I have not been married and have no offspring, and am nearing my 33rd birthday, so I understand the desire, mostly, as it pertains to me. Most of my friends and family are in committed relationships and babies have followed. I pray that they find inexplicable joy in their relationships and serious purpose in their responsibilities.
With all this, though, I wonder how we should think of the journey. Loving is serious because it’s the most important thing we do and the most challenging. Often parents will say, “My life changed when I became a parent,” or perhaps, “You don’t know love until you’ve given yourself, wholly and unconditionally, to another,” and while I find substance here I also find shortsightedness; for, of course, a parent’s world will continue to change as their child grows and giving oneself to another is an investment or journey, not an immediate payoff or arrival.
It wasn’t long ago when my sister became a bride. Like many young girls, Natalie dreamed of her wedding day, surrounded by love and united by a sacred promise; she found Bobby and I gained a brother. As I write this, their first child and my first nephew will soon arrive. I am proud of Natalie for many reasons, especially for her commitment to helping others by sharing her story of medical suffering. When diagnosed at age 21 with Crohn’s disease, she was disheartened and baffled; to our knowledge, no person in our bloodline had the disease and we didn’t know what to expect. She was also very young and had dreams to pursue. She had surgery in the summer of 2015 to remove ten years of sickness from her body. One year later, she got married and became pregnant. Many months into her pregnancy I asked her if she felt any Crohn’s pain; she said no, in fact, the baby heals and relaxes her. It will be wonderful when she and Bobby tell him that.
I stood on the altar next to Bobby when my dad walked Natalie down the aisle. The scene was very symbolic and purposeful. This is what I’ve learned by witnessing their love:
- Determine what is essential
Desires can and often do change, but the serious type keep coming back and nourish our souls. What is essential for you? Which dreams need loving attention and a vision? Who can help?
- Keep making progress
Never relinquish that which is essential to your being. If you get stuck in place, do some thinking and feeling; if you get knocked down, get back up and celebrate; if your path is wrong, turn around and venture back to the right path and trust your decisions.
- There is support
Do not journey alone for too long. It can be healthy to have alone time, but life is relational and meant to be shared with others. Whether you are battling a sickness or loneliness, know that you are deserving of love and support. Sometimes you need to find the love and support, other times it will find you. We must be compassionate enough to support others and humble enough to depend on others.
- Life is dynamic
Change is constant and we need to embrace this. Our personal and professional roles evolve, people will come and go (this could be unfortunate), and we will have opportunity to redefine purpose. Let the past go, but keep the meaningful chapters for reflection and growth.
My cousins have had many children and it is magical to experience life with them. I want to be active in their lives and not just a family member they see at parties. Some are near and others far, but regardless of distance, I try to make the most of our time together and to learn of their development.
I wonder how Natalie and Bobby’s son will change me. I imagine it feeling a bit different, compared to my cousins, but the essential desire for active involvement will remain. I will be in St. Louis when he is born and by his side when he crawls, walks, talks, and learns about stories. I can imagine writing stories for him and taking him to Blackhawks games.
I will also tell him stories about Natalie and Bobby, as much as I know, and that he changes my world and I love him.