RSS

Category Archives: Family matters

Death speak louder!

image

“Remember that one good moment of the time you spent with him and hold onto it….”. The sombre words reverberated in the church hall as my sister inlaw delivered an emotional eulogy.

Yet again death had sucked the last breath out of a loved one’s body. This time our 21 year old nephew who most of us painfully realised we cherished more than we had let him know.

For many, this is not a strange feeling and more so during funerals. This though must never be the norm and as I sat next to the white casket, it dawned that in this moment, another lesson was being re-echoed by and through death.

This particular one came a year and two months fresh after the demise of my father in 2012. My nephew’s death now loudly rang a reminder inside me that the attention accorded to death’s lessons was insufficient.

Living that moment now

Take a while and think through how often we have so many good thoughts we never verbalised when our loved ones were with us.

We are gifted each day with the opportunity to show our affection, pour out our love and enjoy each moment we get with our special ones whilst we have them.

However, many a time this is opportunity spurned due to a misleading unconscious belief that we will all be around tomorrow.

Sadly the truth is that no one can guarantee that with convincing certainity. Even the brightest of minds, richest of lives and most powerful of men have met their inevitable fate without a hint of the precise date or time they will die. Even the person that opts for suicide on a certain day may or may not die.

That in itself should jolt us into rethinking how we handle our relationships, choices and gifts each day. What we have today may well be gone tomorrow.

The permeating truth is that more often than not the death of someone close leaves us with more regret than joy. Not because we are sad to experience the physical departure or we had no clue they would be gone some day.

It simply is because we took it all for a ride.

The final goodbye, unheard and unknown

When I got to see dad a week before he passed on, he had already slipped into unconsciousness. So for those final moments, it was all a monologue. Those words and sentiments of affection a little too late.

This time I was staring at the lifeless body of a young man, resplendent in white. The flashes came back. Those moments I should have listened more than I did. The calls I should have made and that one extra minute I perhaps could have given him.

Alas that was an opportunity lost. Nothing could compensate for it. Not the actions to pull him out of the mortuary or ensure he was well groomed for his last ride in that casket. It was futile now and did not matter. For he sure knew nothing at this stage and had no idea I or anyone else was there. He was no more.

The future repeated

Our biggest challenge is that we have been here before. We have shed these tears before, felt the emptiness of lost chances and broken relationships. But we pay no attention.

With immediacy after a solemn occasion such as this, effortlessly the status quo before the funeral is revived.

As we wheeled the casket to the hearse, the church service over, it was clear death’s voice was not loud enough.

It is the same relationships I have that I would be going back to. Taking them for granted. Keeping those warm words unsaid. Finding it easier to be prejudiced, judgemental and less patient. Only realising what we had and lost when the tears stream down our cheeks when death strikes again.

My sister inlaw’s words pierced the silence of the church. I could hear sobs around the hall as she concluded her heartfelt eulogy to a dear nephew.

I wondered whether this one time many of us had heard the loud voice of death offering timeless lessons.

It could well be you or that person you cherish the most on the last ride.

Death has already provided an overriding enormously rich lesson………….

Do it now.

Advertisements
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on September 10, 2013 in Family matters, Opinion, Reflections

 

Farewell ol’ Jack, goodbye daddy!

The pain is indescribable and the resultant loss a sore feeling. The gnawing effect on the heart has untold misery as a companion.

The day 29th June 2012 enveloped us in its darkness when you breathed your last. A part of me had warned me that this moment would come but it’s never an easy situation to deal with. Seeing you in that hospital bed and noting the breathing motion perhaps gave me a glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe, you would make it back to us.

Alas on this day, it dawned that you would not be making it back. Instead you had crossed over to the other side of life.

Memories of an ever present father

All I have left, as the rest of the family has, are the memories of the time we spent with you. I have had the joy of calling you daddy, observing your life, learning from you and appreciating what you went through or endured for all of us.

Yes you were human and had your faults, don’t we all? But I remember a man that had humour, a man that held it as priority that his family was provided for, a father that did not rest until he knew his children were in school.

Throughout my childhood, to my teens and early adulthood, you have been a consistent presence in my life. Being my father, guiding, providing and teaching in your own silent, sometimes unknown, ways. As I grew older, you even entrusted me with an advisory role, preparing me for my responsibilities as a man. Whether you deemed it deliberate and fit to usher me on that journey or it just fell in place, I do not know. All I do know and cherish is that you taught me.

I hold so many things dear that your presence taught me. The value of family even when things failed. The essence of marriage even when tested but still keep the vows. The unmatched attachment to family and ensuring to the last drop that all hope is not lost. The importance of investing in your children’s heritage through providing an opportunity for an education.

I can go on daddy to outline all the cherished moments and what they mean to me. From the small to the enormous. I still remember that I drive today because you taught me, patiently so, as I got behind the wheel for the first time under your fatherly gaze.

Not all were good times but that matters less because what remains overwhelmingly vivid are the good times shared with you.

The persevering man

When times threw you off and subsequently all of us, giving up was the easier option. But even then, you got up each morning to earn a living and keep smiles on our faces. I never realised how stressful and burdensome it was until later in life when I had my own responsibilities to face.

Respect was the only thing I had left in me. For a man that endured the battering of life’s doldrums and did not throw in the towel. Just so an extra kwacha could support our education, put a meal on the table and at least just try not to concede defeat. Little did I know, all this was a drain on you even as you muscled your way through this treacherous episode.

Images are still so clear of you walking home with a plastic of goodies on a good day, haggard and drained on a bad day or even with a newspaper bought with your last monies so I could read something when I was jobless.

When times were rough, we hopped through different homes and leaking roofs in an incomplete structure we came to call home. But even in those moments, you got up and carried us along, one more step, one more try.

I have looked back to those years and moments with a lot to learn. There is no giving up in this life. You didn’t have to tell me that daddy. You lived it and I saw it.

The best friend I should have had

Now I have valley moments when I kick myself for the time lost. The time I should have worked on deepening our relationship even more, so we could be closer friends. I do not want to regret some of the formal father-son interactions we may have had. They too had their place.

I do wish though that we could have made the most of what we had to be more personal, have more laughs, watch a game of soccer together, have a drink and take a drive going nowhere.

But I opt not to wallow in those regrets. Instead, with a sob and wet eyes, I smile as I recall the precious times we did share. The laughter, chats, visits and even in your weakened state, I hold dear our visit to the Chishimba Falls. Sitting there and just watching the waters pound the rocks was such a joy. There should have been more of those but what we got we are grateful for.

It may not have been as my mind fathoms but you were a pal in your own right daddy.

Failure and the pain of lost opportunities

What hurts me the most to this day is what I never had chance to do. Or perhaps I did but never did enough. You did all you could to provide for us but I don’t feel I have ever come close to paying you back if there is such a thing.

In my mind, I wanted you and mum to enjoy a comfortable life as you aged. With no anxieties about what to eat or what the following day offers, resting well and knowing your children will take care of you.

Alas, life has dealt us a heavy blow. This vision and dream has not come to life. You departed before it could come alive.

The last year and half before your last breathe is even more painful. When external family elements came in, taking you away from home and I could not fight it. Neither could any one of us for the sake of family ties and unity. Little did we know that somehow, it would be you it all hurts in the crossfire. Or maybe we knew but were helpless.

I was ready to challenge it but elderly wisdom implored me not to. That was not the life I had wished for you. That was not what I had wanted for the man I owed and owe all that I am and can be.

But that is what came our way. It had no effect on our or my love for you. Through it all, it gave us opportunity to embrace you and all you had come to represent in our lives. The way you had nurtured and provided for us was what your situation called us to do. The roles had been reversed.

It hurt to imagine you away from a familiar home for a prolonged time. It came close to depression seeing you struggle with memory and recognition with the slurred speech as you communicated. But seeing you each time diluted all these negatives. At least you were there and we could come over and see you.

You recognised me and chatted in your own unclear way last November when we visited. And you expressed your delight as did I. Little did I know that would be the last chat we’d have.

My heart bleeds each time I ask myself why I did not do more. What I could do more than I did. Could I have influenced things to make your latter days better? To alleviate any reason for misery or feeling of neglect you may have dealt with being so far off. We all did what we could for you but deep in my being, I will never be satisfied. For all you did for me, for us, I will always feel I should have done more.

As I saunter through each day, even though now you are gone, I keep wishing I had one more day with you. One more chance just to give you some rest from life’s battering and offer comfort that would reward you for all the burdens carried on your shoulders for our sake.

This nagging feeling always reminds me what a failure I have been, simply because this dream never came true and I never did all I wanted to for you daddy.

That opportunity is now lost. But even in your eternal sleep, you teach me. I will be the best daddy for the girls, a great husband I can be , be there for the family, provide for them and also take care of mummy so you can rest well knowing you ran a good race. You left us equipped for life and nailed in a lesson not to let opportunities to do good slip away. Life can be sucked out of us in a second.

The final request granted

The fact remains that life is not our own to hold onto and it can be taken in a flash. I know this and cannot ignore this truth.

When I got the reports that you were not well, no amount of assurance gave me peace. What mattered more than anything else was abundantly explicit. I had to come to you.

Seeing you unconscious with no response to my or anyone’s presence was devastating. The only consolation I had was knowing that at least you were alive. But the emaciated frame struggling to breath on that bed deflated my soul as I could only stand there helplessly.

While all along I wanted to do something or could, this time I knew it was beyond me. Still I hoped that you would stir to life and stare at me or point out something with your gestures as you communicated something to me. Alas it wasn’t to be.

A part of me prepared me for the inevitable. What we thought was a mild stroke was not. It was severe and you were in a coma. With the previous stroke still showing its effects and your deterioration, this was the final blow daddy. The only thing that kept you there was God’s timing and your inner will to hold on.

Even as I left a day after seeing you, I broke down because I was not sure I would see you alive again. But still I took the request to God, to grant me one last opportunity to do something of extreme importance.

Thankfully, it is a request He granted and with only a day in between leaving you, I did come back. This time not alone but with little sis Nkuka. Mubanga and mum were there so all your three children and wife among others were all there with you.

Tears of hope

The one important thing I needed to do was to share my realisation. I had taken time off work to be by your side regardless of your condition. Simply because I was now convinced there were much more cardinal things in life.

One of those was what one does with their lives here on earth and where the hereafter is lived. I had come back daddy simply to whisper John 3:16 to you in your unconscious state. This was my request to God and I further hoped and still pray He wrought a miracle with this little seed. Only He can water and provide the fruit.

Rubbing your head softly as you struggled to breath or just holding your limp and lifeless hand was enough for me under the circumstances. It could not make up for all the lost opportunities in the long gone past but I was happy to be there with you each day.

That fateful Friday, I saw you first thing in the morning and at lunch. I should have known that was the last I was seeing you alive and that indeed was goodbye. Circumstances conspired strangely but I did not read what was coming.

Odd things happen I suppose when one nears the end. I visited at lunch which I was not doing, mum delayed her usual trip back at 16hrs after a bath and we were kept out of the ward later that day as accident victims were brought in. I opted to take a drive alone, listening to relaxing jazz as I dealt with the reality of your condition. Those should have been the telling signs that the inevitable appointment had come.

29th June 2012 at 17:30hrs, God brought the curtain down and you were no more.

I took it like a man. I had to. I was sad I had missed you by a few minutes. Sad I could not say goodbye. As I got back and stood at the ward entrance staring at bed # 7, it sank in that truly you were gone daddy.

I did not know whether to scream, kick something or just walk away. The man I had come to know as daddy was no more.

Lessons in death

At that moment, my mind opened to more lessons from your life and now your demise. Firstly, it is always easy to tell someone to be thankful to God in all things. My time had come to practice that and so with pain and tears, I thanked God for your life.

Secondly, we are all inherently selfish. I realised that you had suffered daddy and needed to rest. I selfishly wanted you alive but your journey had come to its end. Sometimes I had prayed that if God wills that you make it, we’d have to make amends for what you had endured. And if He opted for the contrary, He should not keep you alive in that agonising state. I guess He knows best and decided to take you.

Thirdly, I have learnt that being christian does not make me perfect. It does not take away my emotions or hurt. But it means I come to God in honest submission with the burden I carry, tears I drop, bitterness I feel and an array of emotions. And with them I realise that all the strength, encouragement and grace I need is from Him. So I have cried, I hurt and have felt so bitter but I know too not to complain but be thankful. I received the gift of your presence in my life and perhaps took it for granted all my life. I cannot drown in complaints now that the situation is painful.

Finally, we must utilise every opportunity possible to be reconciled to God and make peace. It was sobering that I had to share the essence of christianity and salvation as per John 3:16 with you in an unconscious state. This must be a priority for all of us that remain alive as we do not know when God will pull the plug. I remain hopeful that you received the message and
God has done with it what the Word can do, penetrating deep into your unconsciousness (Hebrews 4:12) and not returning void (Isaiah 55:11).

As we stared at you in that casket, shed our tears of sorrow and escorted you to your resting place, I know I did it in and with hope.

Those were tears of hope and I am grateful I came to you before you were gone. Thankful that God is who He is and granted us the gift of you.

I cried because it hurt to part with you. But I also cried because I remained with an alive assurance that you were starting another journey, a better one this time.

I have no idea what happens when one dies or where they go immediately. I do believe however that there is an afterlife. Whichever the case, I hope you are better out there daddy and looking down with pride, satisfaction and a hope that we will join you some day.

Farewell ol’ Jack. Goodbye daddy. I’ll always love and admire you.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on July 3, 2012 in Family matters, Parenting

 

Long distance marriages: A price too high?

Life has a peculiar way of offering lessons. At an opportune time, we find ourselves paying attention to what did not necessarily matter previously.

This is the situation I find myself in as I note the changes in marriage in this modern era. Nowadays lifestyle choices such as cohabiting, remote parenting or marriage with partners apart have all become common place. More of a norm than exception.

Remote parenting and married partners living apart is a situation I am familiar with. As career opportunities arise, decisions come along with them. One such opportunity and decision presented itself to me over a year ago.

After discussions, concerns, consultations and prayer, my wife and I agreed it was an opportunity worth pursuing. One part of the puzzle was sorted, we were in agreement. The other part was the testing one as it meant my relocation 400km from Lusaka and away from the family. It was a gamble we took hoping within a year of two homes and weekend visits, it would become clearer and easier for us to get together as a family. As I write this piece, the status has not changed.

Interestingly, I have met several colleagues in this similar situation. It has become apparent that most couples are now opting for such arrangements to pursue their careers and what we have come to define as success, the fruit of our sweat, training, experience and an inevitable path.

Who is winning here?

But as we have come to know the dual principle of life, if one side is gaining, is there another losing?

To answer such a thought provoking question requires us to analyse either side.

As such, we need to establish what has led to this hitherto unfamiliar trend. Some of the more frequent reasons or justifications are explored in the subsequent paragraphs.

Education and career options- The last few years have seen a phenomenal surge in people acquiring a decent education. The universities and colleges continue churning out hundreds or thousands of degree and diploma holders annually.

This has resulted in more people being open minded, opinionated and receptive to risk or unusual options such as distance marriages.

Additionally, this has meant a proliferation of graduates and professionals in the field of business or commercial disciplines among the main ones. Therefore, vocations like we saw in our forefather/mother times of nursing and teaching have been overtaken by the commercially oriented ones. This has meant opportunities arise in several different geographical locations and spouses find it hard to always push for transfers.

An empowered women movement- Our womenfolk have made tremendous progress as far as their education and careers are concerned. We today see women heading businesses, driving strategy and playing an active part in decision making.

This has subtly shifted power or authority bases even in households as we see more women embrace their independence. It has apparently led to an interpretation that education and/or relatively high incomes entail surrender of leadership in the home.

Thus, the last say is no longer necessarily the man’s call especially where his income is lower, the wife’s corporate position more prestigious or even worse, he is unemployed. The balance has been altered as one’s gender is not the basis for leadership. Other factors have tossed the man’s pants out as a precondition for headship in the home.

Supplementary incomes- There is an argument for a couple to both earn from their jobs so as to boost available income in the home. It seems almost laughable and unacceptable these days to suggest that one spouse can work and support the family. The belief is that both should work and put monies together.

This argument even gains stronger credence as family projects take prominence. Young couples these days are working quickly to build houses, purchase showroom vehicles and put their children in decent
schools for a quality education. To sustain this lifestyle and its demands, the argument for dual income has been effectively fuelled.

Therefore, the thought of surviving on one spouse’s income is not only unattractive but is even deemed almost impossible or an avoidable source of financial pummelling and stress.

Job opportunities- With the flood of graduates raining each year, the demand for jobs is overwhelming. The opportunities are agonisingly few emanating in permeating desperation among job seekers.

After a long wait for a job and one comes along, very few have the option of turning opportunities down. Most employers know this well and are alive to the fact that if one job seeker does not fill a vacancy, there is a train of others waiting. This is a fact that any job seeker cannot afford to ignore unfortunately.

Following on this point then, when any opening arises either early in one’s career as the first job or for furthering one’s career, the price it comes at seemingly matters less. Whether one must be away from family for a lift in monthly pay or uproot the family to take a new job, the only thing that seems to matter then is a perception that progress lies in embracing the new job.

For as long as jobs are scarce, career opportunities away from home will be a daunting challenge and turning them down extremely testing.

Technology and changing times- Over the decades, technology has registered unprecedented growth. The world has seen and enjoyed an array of developments that enhance the quality and efficiency of life.

This technology has combined fluidly with the modern times we are in. The changing times have given reason to most people to highlight the difference with the centuries of old in terms of marital arrangements and choices.

With the advent of sophisticated mobile phones, Skype, Facebook, WhatsApp and a host of other communication alternatives, it may seem distance is not a challenge. Couples are in touch any minute in a flash and this dilutes the adverse impact of being apart. The distance then does not pose a huge challenge for modern day couples.

Peer pressure- This may seem a strange reason. But it does play a potent part in determining if a couple should live apart. For women, in the current quest for equality, their close associates and relatives may remind them that they are at par with the husband, have their careers to pursue or should not depend on a man.

Similarly for the man, consideration has to be made for advice not to sacrifice their job to be with family while the wife works because they must be the ones to provide. Various other pieces of advise will be given that feed into a couple’s decision making and if they are not strong in their personal resolve, they will be living by the preferences of other people they are not married to.

The above brief insights reflect some plausible reasons that are catalysts in decisions to be apart.

However, we will also need to look at the mirror side of distance marriages to appreciate both schools of thought.

Back to basics- We need to know and explore the rationale of marriage. It is stated from the time of the institution’s inception that two people become one when they marry.

This is the formation of a home and together the couple build on this and remain together ideally. The question thus becomes whether this building can be attained when a couple live apart and only see each other every weekend or stay in touch via phones or the internet.

Emotional and sexual connection- It is well documented that ideally when a couple is young in marriage and age, this should be their peak in consolidating their bond. The couple are at the cardinal stage of knowing each other, accepting their different personalities and also enjoying their sexual union as frequently as their tender age and appetites can sustain.

When a choice results in being physically away from each other, it is a fallacy to think bonding will not in any way be affected. The degree to which it does can be mitigated by deliberate effort by the couple to stay connected. But it is a fact that there is no substitute for physical presence even in bond building and sexual union.

Temptation and disease- The world we live in now has exposed us to sensual complexity. It is not unusual for women to hunt for men or either sexes to opt for alternative lifestyles or having people in extramarital and multiple affairs.

With this dimension, it so happens that when a marriage is not fortressed, the little cracks will open for temptation to set in. The crafty and opportunistic female colleague or male associate that has an inkling of the marital arrangement, will take advantage and slip in. This may happen subtly and unknowingly or even so clearly.

The end results are always there for us to see. Affairs spring up, marital conflicts, separation and divorces, pregnancies and on the extreme the contraction of fatal conditions such as HIV/AIDS which lead to death.

Children and disrupted privileges- It is widely accepted that children are a blessing from God. This reward is incomparable and it is such a joy to mould them into admirable grown ups.

However, when a couple resign themselves to a life apart, this parental role will be affected undoubtedly. The children require the presence of their parents as the initial role models they have in their formative stage.

The hours may be split between work demands and home but on a consistent basis, the parental presence will be available daily. Its importance for both children and parents cannot be questioned.

The children live with examples to follow as they observe their parents on one hand. On the other hand, parents have the rare privilege of observing their children’s developmental progress and intervention can be quick and timely where needed. This is almost impractical when one parent is away from the home 5-6 days at a time each week.

I found it rather sobering as I assessed my predicament. If I visit my family every weekend, spending a full Saturday and half the day Sunday, I am losing 22 days each month and 264 days a year!! That is over 70% of family time lost, never to be recovered. So for something that matters so much to me, I only have 30% time for it.

Spiritual development- This is the most neglected and undermined factor that has an untold impact on a home. Modernity and extraneous pressures have shoved spirituality to the back almost effectively clothing it as archaic and old fashioned with no place in the 21st century.

This cannot be further from the truth. God will be God for as long as we exist and His principles will remain ageless. No matter how much effort is put into ignoring Him, this is always at the peril of the human race. We see it in today’s world as successive generations melt away in moral decay, covetousness and a life of futility.

When parents are spiritually weak or in a spiritual coma, they have no capacity to
pass on the most important heritage to their children. This is aggravated more where parents are not together to drive this agenda. They do not themselves attach importance to such a priceless treasure. They are also apart to lay the spiritual foundation together.

The impact then is on the children too. What takes the place of values, principles and morality when there is no standard taught to these children? There is a void that inevitably is and will be filled by peers, celebrity role models, entertainment and whatever fads they are exposed to. Additionally, absentee parents subordinate and delegate their role to maids or relatives that their children spend more time with than they do.

If the spiritual foundation is cracked or absent, it remains for us to determine what will influence our children as they grow. Not only that, we too will need to be aware of our void and its implications on our lives and choices.

Which side are you on?

In the final analysis, a couple must consider all factors before them to arrive at a decision. The ultimate question is a reflection of priorities in their collective life. Is it the extra money or the bond? Is it the career or the home? Is growing together paramount or remote connections suffice?

We all have different reasons for making such choices. Justifications too are commonplace but in the end, the period it takes with a family divided physically, is of extreme importance. Should the separation even be considered in the first place? Or should it be but only for a little while?

Ultimately, the couple will decide. It is my considered view though that the motivation and priority must be based on three critical things.

Firstly, the marriage and relationship of the couple. Secondly, the children and their character moulding. Finally, the importance of a home and the environment it should provide.

These are fundamental considerations even as we consider reasons to back our decisions such as:

“We need the extra income.”

” It is for the good of the children and our future.”

“It won’t be too a long a stay. Tom or Jane was also in the same situation and within a year he/she was back.”

“At least we just need to make sure we stay in touch, call the kids often and visit weekends! That way, your absence won’t be felt much.”

“Times have changed these days and it is normal for a couple to live apart because of work”

“Absence makes the heart grow fonder. A couple will differ and fight less but instead enjoy each other if they are apart and meet after a while.”

Marriage, family and the children’s holistic development are of more critical importance than career or extra income.

Talking to my girls when I call always brings this realisation home for me. The tone of their voices, the piercing words “I miss you” or “When are you coming?” remain loud in my head long after I have spoken with them. When I visit home, the effect it has on them is so evident that it leaves me guilty for depriving them of what they deserve.

I have no doubt having been in this situation for over a year that distance marriages are not a healthy undertaking for any couple.

We can see that marriages and homes are under attack. It is a subtle assault and hence it passes almost unnoticed but results may well be devastating.

The factors are varied, choices personal and rationale peculiar with every couple. Overall, however, I believe marriages and homes must be insulated from the shock of distance.

We may not appreciate the immediate scale or impact that remote marriages have but when we open a keen eye and look around, concern is inevitable.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on June 29, 2012 in Family matters, Marriage

 

Postponing love: memories of lost time

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.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on June 2, 2012 in Family matters

 

The cancer in marriages

The honking rings loud as the convoy makes its way down Great East road! At the Arcades roundabout, it is the all familiar pattern. The excited, screaming and happy bunch drive around the floral decorated roundabout several time. Then they head east to the Mulungushi Service Club, one of the popular destinations for wedding receptions.

There are good times ahead as two people tie the knot and start their lives together.

What makes a good marriage so those good times can become reality? What are the issues affecting marriages that make this reality a challenge?

Diagnosing the cancer

Observing and experiencing marriage has pointed me to some areas I feel have helped over the years. A couple consciously or sub-consciously enrich or derail their marriage. Let us analyse these areas.

1. Ease of entry=ease of exit- it is not much of an issue for a couple to wed these days. On a simplistic basis, an early pregnancy or parental scheming, two lives are brought together in marriage so easily. This dilutes the essence and seriousness of this institution. It follows then that if it can be this easy to get in, how much easier to get out? We just need to look at divorce statistics and reasons to answer that question.

2. Privacy and advice- it is not uncommon these days to see a marital situation posted on Facebook or even the extreme of couples having a go at each other on social sites. The web space is always full of willing “helpers”, most eager for the juicy story more than genuine need to build or repair.

I remember once seeing a posting of a gentleman complaining, clearly about his wife, and one of his friends showed her willingness and being all ears! Fortunately, reason prevailed when one colleague mentioned that marriage has a place for discussion and grievances, such a platform was not one of them.

It is not only these social sites. We find also that we easily talk to friends, relatives or whoever we deem to have a good set of ears. It is such decisions that open our marriages and bedrooms to all sorts of advice and influences.

As many as may seem interested in our marriage, we must be wise and cautious. It is not far fetched to state that some offer a shoulder so as to feel better about their situation, fuel gossip about your marriage or perhaps even mock you embarrassingly when not with you.

3. Departure from traditional values- Call it old fashioned but I believe there is a lot of wisdom that tradition offers. When a couple are tutored in readiness for the big step of marriage, a lot is shared. If we take time to recall some of the elements and apply them in our marriages, there is a lot of value to be derived. There are aspects of how a couple must relate, resolve issues, respect and romance. All these combined with experience, appropriate and wise counsel, combine as rich ingredients for any marriage.

In addition, we have let westernisation corrupt our perspective of marriage. What we see in soapies, movies and on the internet or through relatives/friends we have in the west influences our marriages. All in the name of being modern. How we communicate, deal with our priorities/pursuits, handle our roles etc, all are open to the western influence to the detriment of our marriages.

4. Silent competition between spouses- I am progressive and encourage growth and development for all. However, the current women’s empowerment movement has the plot wrong. Most statements are always along the lines of “a man can do this, why not you?”. It has become a battle of sexes and almost always, the approach sets women on collision course with the menfolk.

Some things we may not love to hear but the truth is that there is a place for both male and female in the marriage setup. The challenge and key for either is to be aware and play it effectively with support from the spouse.

At no time should careers, ambitions, pay, status, parties or social considerations take precedence over respect, mutual growth and the marriage. The wife owes the husband his rightful respect as the husband does the fair treatment a wife deserves for her critical role.

How many wives do we know that talk their husbands down because they are not in employment, earn less or are in less glamorous jobs? How many husbands do we know that treat their wives like maids, slaves, tools or second class beings?

Every action of a couple must be weighed in terms of what is ultimately beneficial for the union and its future. Anything done with a motive outside of this is a sure recipe for a disastrous marriage.

5. Spouses have stopped talking- Show me a couple that does not take time to talk and I will show you a marriage in ICU on oxygen! It is no cliche, communication is everything.

A couple must be able to do this well in all areas. One must understand the other’s way of thinking, dislikes, likes, weaknesses and strengths. Such characteristics and knowledge of one’s partner have a crucial part in every marriage. It also kicks out assumptions, speculation and unnecessary differences.

In this day and age, technology presents a double edged sword. On one hand it makes communication instant when apart. On the other, it poses a challenge in that couples now agree or communicate through texts or quick calls to relay information or agree on issues. “Home soon. With the guys” or ” Salon. Meeting Jane” are familiar standard one liners conveyed in texts.

When together or at home, the whole world is at the fingertips as Facebook, IM, browsing and all the phones offer takes the place of active conversation. Add to this the television as well. Another thief of close bonding moments for a couple.

6. Ineffective problem resolution- When a couple have a difference, it is imperative to deal with an issue and close it. As long as emotions are not running so high as to lead to damaging confrontation, the two must agree to close things there and then.

When this is done, it must be resolved, closed and left behind. Do not keep a full list of what one said, did wrong and use it when there is a fresh difference in future. Additionally, at the point of resolving, stick to the issue at hand without darting all over on unrelated issues. This only degenerates into self-defence or a “hit me and I’ll hit back” approach that does not build the relationship.

7. The vows are forgotten- Those words we utter on that important day have very rich meaning. Perhaps couples should have them framed for their bedrooms and recite them every so often!

When we look back at how we conduct ourselves and our marriages, most times the evidence seems to be that those words were a mere formality, parroted to get through a ceremony.

If we can live according to those vows, they should help us respect what God has created in marriage for us, what we committed to and should aspire for.

8. God got the boot- If we respected God and honoured Him, stating that we follow Him, the likelihood is that most marital problems we have would not arise. Covetousness, sarcasm, tit-for-tat engagements, adultery, divorces, children out of wedlock, violence, neglect and all ills one can imagine. All these would not haunt marriages as the case is today.

But the reality is sad. God was kicked out a long time ago if at all He was at the centre of the union in the first place. Without Him as reference point and foundation, the ugly picture of marriage we see in our age should be no surprise.

9. Cracked foundation- God designed marriage for noble and privileged intentions. This we have corrupted with opening up such an institution to anyone and for wrong reasons. Perhaps its because the biological clock is ticking or one has gone past the socially acceptable age without wedding. Early pregnancies, peer or parental pressure. Whichever way one views this, the fact is that we have unprepared people entering this institution that has a huge impact on society and the future.

Marriage is a sweet and rewarding thing. But it comes with huge responsibility and must never be taken lightly by anyone. No one so clueless about it must get into it.

10. Role models needed- Currently, broken homes, multiple homes, remote parents and neglected families/marriages have become a normal feature in our society.

Our parents, political and religious leaders are failing in their marriages. There are stories of these role models divorcing, being sugar daddies/mummies and everything to show “marriage gone wrong”.

Society needs more good examples of what it means to have a successful marriage. What it means to sail through all the challenges, dips and temptations to make one’s marriage a priority, to make it work and together saunter towards the half century anniversary one day at a time, if God wills.

11. Spouses are not friends- It’s as simple as that. I have come to believe that when two people are very close friends before they marry or become close friends during their marriage, it is a great help. There are times romance and excitement poses a challenge in a marriage, friendship jumps right in. It fuels the relationship and sets it back on course because these two people have become so close, shared so much and have that bond as fallback. So let that person you have exchanged vows with be your best friend.

12. Acts of good with a motive- In a marriage, all we do must be out of love. It must be an act of giving of ourselves for the good of our partner without expectation of any form of reward or payback. This is cardinal so we have no ulterior motive or opt to stop doing the good we have because the response has not been as we expected. That way, it will be a spontaneous part of our marriage as we do what we choose to do because we love our spouse. The appreciation will flow in its right time as a response to the love one radiates as they act out of genuine love!

13. Autopilot marriage- After the honeymoon, a few years or perhaps even a number of kids into the marriage, couples simply stop working on the marriage. We do not put in effort at all but hope for a successful marriage. The surprises cease, the outings, small gifts, notes or acts of love. The challenge for us all is to revisit all these tokens of love and find ways to make the other happy. Then we can fall in love over and over, years into our marriage. Not only that, we must keep our eyes open to all the little things done for us and not set sight only on the huge! So many little daily things happen that should make us realise how much our spouses love us.

14. Be in your partners’ shoes- Most times we want to resolve something, point out an area we are not impressed with, we forget to build. Our motivation must always be to improve and enrich. That must guide how we relay negative feedback and point areas of improvement. Leave your partner in a better place after that than rip them apart into a confidence sapping state.

Likewise, when we make decisions whether financial, social or personal, we must walk in our spouse’s shoes. When we make it a habit to think in terms of the other, it soon may just become habit and each step of the way, we will have our loved one at the centre of all we do.

This also plays a critical role in terms of transparency, building trust and openness in the way we do things and manage the marriage.

The above points are not all. I am sure you too can think of several you have picked along the way. Either through your own marriage experience or that of others you may or may not know.

When we combine all these and make a deliberate pledge to enrich our marriages through consistent application, don’t you think we would have better marriages?

Only then can we defeat the cancer battering marriages currently.

Think about it.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on April 9, 2012 in Marriage

 
 
Zambian Economist

Critical thinking. Analysis. Change. Progress

Managing Today

Ideas. Analysis. Change.

The Daily Post

The Art and Craft of Blogging

The Obama Diary

President Barack Obama ... photos, videos & a word or two