When I met Jennifer, she told me she never traveled outside her country of Colombia. Intrigued as to why as a North American I chose to come back here for a third time, she asked, “What is so special about Colombia?” She listened with a big smile as I spoke about all the things I loved here. The moment I mentioned family values, she quickly wiped the smile off her face.
Here’s Jennifer’s family story:
Don’t get me wrong. Our culture of family has a strong foundation in unity. I have many wonderful memories of my childhood just being with my family. At the same time, there are two things that I began to question and have never really understood.
- Why do we wait until someone we love has passed away to tell them what they meant to us?
- Why do we wait for a funeral gathering to practice our values and beliefs with each other?
My grandfather had 29 children, 11 with my grandmother and the rest with 2 other women (They had no TV in those days!).
I was sixteen years old, at my grandfather’s wake when I found out how big my family really was. My mom introduced me to most of my aunts, uncles and cousins for the first time. When I asked her why we are all meeting now, she explained, “Your grandfather always wanted for everyone to be together again. There were certain things that were said and done between some of us that just didn’t make it possible. Now that he’s gone, we wanted him to have his wish, so he can rest in peace.” The worst part is that she couldn’t remember most of the ‘certain things’ that led to almost 15 years of separation between brothers and sisters. All I knew is that it had to do with arguments, disagreements and conflicts among some of them. Some were not even personally involved or present when these situations took place. In order to seek revenge, the ones involved began to spread malicious gossip about the person they had an argument with. Others actually chose to break all ties and end relationships based on the gossip.
As I sat there, I watched as one by one his 29 children knelt down beside his body, lamenting about all the things they never got to say to him or got to do with him. They spend hours crying and hugging each other. Apologizing for letting all those years pass them by.
It truly seemed like the beginning of a brand new start filled with peace and harmony within this family.
I am now 23 years old. Since the death of my grandfather, 6 more members of this family have passed away. The only time I ever got to see my aunts, uncles and cousins was at a funeral. At each one, everyone kneels down to the deceased and laments over the things they never got say or got to do with them. Again, they all hug each other and lament over how the years go by fast and how they should all get together soon…
To this day, I still don’t understand why my family practices values that are so important to them, at a time of death and not at a time of being alive. Through their behaviors, I did, however, realize and learn so much:
Guilt and regret when you didn’t get to say and do all you wanted with a loved one before they die, is probably the worst kind of regret.
I have already lived long enough to have seen this happen one too many times. When we are alive, we focus on each other’s imperfections. We feel like it’s ok to let arguments get so out of hand that we destroy relationships. Some of us talk about beliefs and values that are important; forgiveness, compassion, empathy, understanding, peace and harmony…yet, we are quick to gossip, judge and criticize even the ones we love the most.
I made myself two promises;
- I will always try my best to appreciate the ones I love NOW, while they are alive. I don’t want to put it off by having to tell them over their dead body.
- If I get into an argument or disagreement with someone, I will make an effort to work things out with the person instead of holding a grudge and live with anger and bitterness.
I have also asked them to tell me how they feel about me NOW that I am still alive. I don’t want them lamenting over my dead body.
We would enjoy Life and have so much more fun if we celebrated with each other while we are ALIVE!
It’s normal to argue and disagree, but PLEASE, do not wait to make amends. It’s too late once they’re gone.
What do you think of Jennifer’s story?
Is there someone whom you haven’t seen in a long time because of a disagreement or argument? How would you feel if that person would no longer be here tomorrow? PLEASE, right now, call them or go see them and tell them everything you want to say.