I was having a conversation with a friend who had gone through his own divorce a few years back. He said one of the most difficult things he has had to deal with post-divorce, was the loss of so many extended family members. He lives in a community where the majority of his friends came to him through his ex-wife. Though they had not rejected him outright, the relationships that were once comfortable, now felt a bit awkward. I think I understood what he was expressing.
My ex-husband was the second of 11 children. When we started dating, and he introduced me to his family, it was a bit overwhelming . . . even though I had a lot of extended family members on my dad’s side. But the family welcomed me, and I became a part of this close-knit family circus.
Today is the anniversary of my former mother-in-laws birth, and her family is on my mind. Davida passed away several years ago, but when I think of her, I think of love. She was a wonderful example of compassion, kindness, patience, loyalty, faith . . . the list is endless. While I was married to her son, she was always kind, and never critical. But the impact that she really had on my life came after my divorce from her son.
Davida would call me at least once a month to see how I was doing. She would proceed to ask me about each of my children (her grandchildren), and she would inquire about me, and what I was doing. Then she would always apologize for the actions of her son, as though she were somehow to blame. I would always remind her that she had raised 11 strong-minded children who each made their own choices, and she was in no way to blame for her son’s decisions about his life.
But the thing that meant the most is that she would tell me she was proud of me, and she would remind me that I was doing such a good job with my family. She would talk about my strength, and how I had shown courage in doing what needed to be done to meet the daily needs of my children. During my marriage, though she was not critical, she was also not particularly complimentary, so this meant a great deal to me. In fact, there were moments that her words of encouragement were what got me through a particular challenge.
When she passed away, I missed her calls. But then, her sister, Beth, began calling me and having similar conversations with me, saying she knew Davida would want her to keep in touch. Since then, Beth’s health has not allowed her to continue the calls. I miss her calls too!
The thing about all of this is, we just don’t know when someone we love will enter or leave our lives, and we are often mistaken as to how others see us. We are so quick to judge ourselves, and believe that those around us can only see our thorns, instead of the beautiful rose that we are. Lately I have been so blessed to have a couple of my former in-laws post messages to me on Facebook which have shed a different light on my self-perceptions.
Their words reminded me that I am good. That though I have my share of negative traits, I have also been graced with wonderful qualities. I am courageous, kind, smart, and witty, loving, generous, optimistic, compassionate, and on and on . . . as well as sometimes grouchy, judgmental, frightened, etc. I am like a perfect, beautiful rose . . . thorns and all!
The comments have also reminded me that although I may not get to spend a lot of time with my ex’s family, they will always be important, and they have played a valuable part in helping me become who I am today. The words of Alfred Lord Tennyson come to mind here . . . “It is better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all!” Perhaps if I drop the story that I have permanently lost something by losing touch with people who have been an integral part of my life, and instead choose to look at what I have gained by knowing them, the sense of loss will diminish. I am better for knowing them. The fact is, if I had not married my ex, I would not have had the 10 amazing children that are now such an important part of my life. I would also never have met his mother and the other incredible people in his family. I can focus on what I have lost through our divorce, or I can choose to discover what I have gained.
It’s really no different with the friend I had the conversation with that started this entire train of thought. I had not seen him for 40+ years. I never imagined we would meet again. However, we have since reconnected, and that place in my heart that has always been his (yes, everyone I have ever known holds their own place in my heart), has been reawakened. His kindness, authenticity, compassion, encouragement, humor, intelligence, and strength are helping me to see myself in a better way. Maybe, just maybe, the ebb and flow of individuals in our lives is designed to help us see ourselves . . . in our entirety, and to accept that no matter what, no one is truly ever lost to us, and that we are all perfect . . . just as we are!