I miss my wife and girls. I wish I had a far deeper and closer relationship with dad. I wish he was but a few minutes away with mum, both within my reach. These are thoughts and feelings that ransack my mind, reminding me of some relationships I should have handled better. Also poignantly pointing me to the fact that I am away from home and family thus setting me off on a path of loneliness.
My father is still alive but his condition after a couple of strokes means his memory is not at its best. Sometimes, it can be so bad that he won’t recognize me and may even need to be assisted so that he is fully dressed. To cap it all, he is over 500km away with his elder sister. This is an arrangement that has long bothered me but I have not fought it to avert an unnecessary family rift. One side has had to give in and perhaps I have opted for that side, at least for dad’s sake.
But it hurts not to have the relationship I now know I treasure. With a man I have come to respect unreservedly.
This is a man I have grown up calling “daddy”. The man that has provided for me through life, educated me, taught me to drive a car and made sure all of us were catered for to whatever extent he could manage.
These are things I may never have appreciated or understood then but treasure immensely now. They have made me respect the man that quietly struggled to give us the best we could get without as much as showing how much he had on his shoulders.
Today I can not pick the phone and call him. He is not the same man that would send a card on my birthday or before exams to wish me well while I was at University.
When I had that chance, he was just my father and was always there. I knew I would see him walk in at the end of the day, hear that slight cough that announced his presence as he sit quietly, relaxed after a long day of hustling to provide for his household.
I had the chance to build a relationship between father and son from the typical “formal” one to a friend based “daddy-sonny” type. That is a chance I may have lost in this lifetime if nothing changes. A chance lost because I took the presence of someone I love for granted. The man that taught me a lot through his silence, social nature, calm, perseverance and warm heart in spite of his faults. A chance lost because I thought I would always have this man around. With an unclear speech, fading memory and age, what I wish I had back then, it seems I will never have.
Is God mean and unfair?
A part of me wants to think so. Then another part takes me back to the time I still have with dad alive, the time I have had with him in the past and all the good times we have had. All the lessons that have been passed one way or another through observation, word of mouth or whatever form. Then I know life has two sides. I have experienced one and now the other has kicked in.
The truth as well is also that while I had the “good side” of things, I took it for granted while the clock ticked.
Are your parents alive? Do you have a spouse you love? Do you have children? Is your relationship rocky but you are too proud to take the first step to mend it?
There is nothing too big an issue or situation that should stand in the way of enjoying the relationships one is blessed with and fortunate to have. The sun rises and sets. The moon too and all things in life have their cycles. There is a time for everything under the sun. We should remember that all the time and this will be an active reminder for us to value the relationships we have rather than act on the presumption that we will “teach someone a lesson” and by tomorrow, we will make “peace”.
I believe that once we start to look at things in this way, we will change how we handle our relationships and/or differences (perceived or real). We will value our spouse more than that irritating habit we despise and therefore help them beat it through encouragement than criticism. We will show love to our parents when we appreciate what they have done and have gone through to get us where we are. We will value so much that even an additional minute of inquisitive enquiries from those “under 5” kids or the chaos they leave in their trail around the house, will prompt a smile and not a frown of irritation.
We will fall on our knees and instead of cursing or giving in to despair, commit that “unbearable” and rebellious teenager to God. We will pray that they meet God in their confusion and find the right path. If you are in their life to lead them on that path, we will pray that God grants us patience, tolerance and love.
The challenge of calling ourselves Christian is that our standards are so clear and we must know them. Usually we do and perhaps just ignore them or we have an “ignorance bug” that needs to be flushed out.
Our standards are clear in the Scriptures. In Genesis 37:23-28, Joseph was stripped, thrown in a dry cistern and sold off by his brothers because of jealousy. This meant he lost contact with his family, his loved ones and a place called home. Later in Chapter 45, we see that he embraces his brothers as though nothing happened. He got a second chance to enjoy the relationships he valued and they did too for the relationship they took for granted.
In Luke 16:19-31, we also see a case where we despise others on account of class. This is prejudice we also show in many forms. Love we withhold because others are not like us as the rich man is said to have done with Lazarus. A reminder shows here that life indeed has two sides and when the tables turn, the rich man even cries out for Lazarus to help, a person he never held in any high esteem when all was well for him.
In 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, we are also shown what love stands for. This is the clearest explanation of what is expected of us in the way we handle our relations. Coupled with this is how Jesus implored us to love as a sign that we are His followers in Matthew 5:22-26, 38-42, 43-48. This call to love and value the relationships we have is a direct challenge for us to view all those around us different from our ordinary manner and desire.
It is time to assess all our relationships, value them and love those in our lives like we have no tomorrow with them.
Don’t create regret simply because you delayed that love. Take a moment to appreciate those you have and when you see them, say I love you and mean it.
Love is always all around us, it remains for you and I to nurture it to fruition and enjoy its fruit.
Go on, love like there is no tomorrow. Start today and delay no more.