Recently, my children and I all converged upon the same restaurant for dinner together – arriving separately. As my younger son, Connor walked in, I had a clear view of my older son Chris’s face and saw him absolutely light up with a huge smile and unabashed joy when he saw his brother. My heart soared because it wasn’t always that way. Driving home from dinner, I reflected on their relationship over the years. There were a few periods when they weren’t close at all, and I had reluctantly accepted that they may never become close.
When they were much younger, their fighting was constant. I recall being saddened by what appeared to be mutual hatred. I now can see it never was hatred; it was simply two boys trying to outrank each other in the pecking order. And now, they are great friends who talk to each other every day, and totally have each other’s back. What a rich and well-earned friendship they have based on mutual acceptance.
Siblings. That’s what they tend to do. They accept us because we are who they won in the birth lottery. And they are stuck with us for better or for worse.
I recognize that my children and I (and maybe even my brother!) are truly blessed because we have strong relationships with our siblings. A high school friend recently posted on Facebook how enormously heartbroken he felt by his estranged brother’s sudden death. A lifetime of possibilities forever ended. He painfully mourned not having a chance for a do-over. An opportunity to appreciate the person even if he could not accept or agree with many of his brother’s lifestyle decisions.
What conversations do you need to have with your siblings? An expression of love and appreciation? Or perhaps a chance to ‘bury the hatchet’ and move forward in a new way? Whatever it is for you, have a conversation based on future possibilities and positive intentions- even if it is the conversation you first have with yourself. Since nothing good comes from rehashing what is over and, in the past, move forward and assume positive intent. And isn’t that what your parents told you all along? “Treat others how you want to be treated.” It’s the gift that keeps on giving, and you never know when it will be your turn to receive the blessings.
Immediately after my husband died by suicide, I landed in a shock cushion – grief’s lifeline for absorbing trauma and loss. I was in a dazed autopilot state trying to be as present as possible to my three children who will never again have a father. The enormity of their loss needed to outweigh my own. Dozens of friends flowed in and out of our house for days on end, and yet I have almost no memory of that.
What I do vividly remember was the arrival of my brother Greg, driving all the way from Ohio. He and his incredible wife and kids dropped everything to come to resuscitate us. When I looked up and saw my brother, my feelings of stupendous grief and loss finally penetrated, and I was able to give in to them. Because I knew I could; my big brother and lifelong protector had arrived. As he gathered me up in his bear hug, I went weak at the knees and wailed because finally, I was safe.
An Inside Look
Life has a way of softening the edges of family relationships. It brings us clarity about what is most important and what is truly precious. Our siblings are the ones who know the behind the scenes details of our growth and development. They know our most embarrassing and humiliating failures and our most significant triumphs. They have had first row seats witnessing our life.
So, on April 10th, National Siblings Day, if you are lucky enough to have a brother or sister, I hope you will reach out and connect. It will make your parents truly happy. And your siblings too.
**Dedicating this post to the best big brother in the world- Greg Stevens