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Ernest Kral family

My wife’s grandparents and her aunts and uncles

My wife and I are the only members of our family to have moved away from our hometown, the rest of our siblings chose to make their home fairly close to our parents, but we moved a mere three hours west to a smaller city.  So for the last 27 years we have raised our family and become a part of the community in Central Texas.  We were always the ones who drove in from out of town to be with family during the holidays, and we felt bad, from time to time, asking our family to come visit us to attend our children’s birthday parties, recitals, musicals, first communion and confirmations, but we all knew that even though there were a few hours between us it was important to continue to be a part of each other’s lives.  Family is important, when we only had one child, I had the opportunity to move across the country for a job, we seriously considered it, but ultimately we decided that we didn’t want to be that far away from our extended family.

We have never regretted that decision.  Only a few years after we decided not to move, my mother passed away at the relatively young age of 54.  She was admitted to the hospital complaining of back pain and the cause of her pain was determined to be complications from undiagnosed stage 4 breast cancer.  She passed away within a week of the diagnosis and my wife and I and our young children got to see her shortly after she was admitted and diagnosed with cancer and all of us, minus the young children, were able to be at her side praying the rosary when she passed away.  Despite living 3 hours away, we always took every opportunity to get together with our extended family.  My mother would drive up to see us if we needed a babysitter, as long as as we gave her at least a few hours notice.  We have lots of home videos of my parents and my in-laws on family vacations, at all those special family events both in our city as well as theirs.

I have often pondered what it is about extended family relationships that makes them so important.  There is something about getting to know your relatives and even deceased ancestors that helps you to go beyond yourself and see your life from a new perspective.  Knowing your family history allows you to know yourself better, it gives you a sense of belonging, an identity bigger than just yourself.  Let me provide an example, my Mom and Dad did quite a bit of genealogy work prior to my Mother’s untimely death in 1999, and it literally saved their marriage.  I will never know all the details and I doubt that either of my parents could put it into words, but I suspect that by researching the lives of their ancestors and hearing stories about them from older relatives who had not yet died, they were inspired by stories of those who caused them to come into existence.

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Hebert cousins at a family funeral

Strong relationships with extended family members can be difficult, but also very rewarding.  You can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family.  God chose them for you, for your salvation.  Perhaps you have moved far away from your family members, what can you do?  Ultimately it is all about priorities, when you are planning out your holidays, do you plan vacations around spending time with extended family?  Do you keep in contact with your parents, brothers and sisters on a regular basis?  Do you call just to see what is happening in their lives?  Even though many people live far from their extended family, technology has made it easier to keep in touch, video calling is available to most anyone reading this post, social media helps you to share videos, photos and short tidbits about your life with family who may be across the country or the world.  If you can’t be there in person, use your imagination and come up with ways that you can stay involved in the lives of your nieces, nephews and grandparents.  The hardest part of doing this is making the decision that these relationships are important enough to be a priority in your life amongst the many activities and general business of family life.

This has been a rough year for our family and now during this time we find ourselves again facing the reality of losing another parent.  Because we know the value of these relationships, we have chosen to uproot our family and temporarily live in the city of our relatives to be with them during my Father-in-Laws illness.  We have had to make many sacrifices, it is not easy, but it is definitely the best gift we can give to our children and their grandparents.  The opportunity to be present to one another and nourish those relationships we have built with our extended family is irreplaceable.  These interactions with family members are more profoundly meaningful than any other interactions we can have in this life.  These are the people God has given us to love and to cherish.  Families are the design of God to pass on the knowledge of life, faith, and love.

“For the LORD sets a father in honor over his children; a mother’s authority he confirms over her sons. He who honors his father atones for sins; he stores up riches who reveres his mother. He who honors his father is gladdened by children, and when he prays he is heard. He who reveres his father will live a long life; he obeys the LORD who brings comfort to his mother.” Sirach 3:2-7

 Originally published at CatholicSistas

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Comments

  1. Lucy Trainor
    Lucy Trainor  November 25, 2014

    So sorry about your Mom, Allen.

    reply
  2. Paul Lange  November 25, 2014

    Some of my children dislike visiting their relatives. Some would rather spend time with their friends instead of time with their relatives, if the choice was given to them.

    It’s been a challenge to try to explain to them how important family relationships are.

    But, just the other day, I had an occasion to attend a high school reunion. I had seen very few of those old high school classmates in the many years that have passed since high school.

    I considered how I barely stayed in touch with my best friends from high school. I considered how my wife was in a similar situation, and she was much more socially active than I was. I also thought about my sisters and who they stayed in touch with over the years. Really, I examined several people – friends, acquaintances.

    Almost, to a man (or woman), they rarely had any friendship or relationship that survived the many years from their youth.

    Except for family.

    It’s something else to think about when we want to postpone a family visit or drop the priority on communicating regularly with them.

    reply
  3. morningtower  November 26, 2014

    Allen, you and your family have been our prayers since this all started. Our hearts go out to you all!

    From 2004 until 2005, our lives were in constant upheaval. First, in February, 2004, my father-in-law died from cancer. In July, my father informed me that he, too, had cancer, but that it was just a minor inconvenience, and I was not to worry. He died in October, after spending 3 months in the Bahamas at an alternative cancer clinic. I got to be with him for almost two weeks during that time, battling Jeanne, a Category 3 hurricane. I watched a man who had been a powerful and ofttimes terrifying force to contend with for my entire childhood and most of my adult life, wither away into a feeble, skeletal old man. I can’t describe the heartache, but then, you guys don’t need a description.

    Finally, after going through TWO hurricanes, a mild earthquake (no kidding!), coping with a drug-addicted niece who moved in with us about a month after my dad passed, and our dog being killed by a hit-and-run driver (right in front of Alex and Abby!), our house burned down on June 5, 2005. To say that our finances were a nightmare during that time would be the understatement of the year!

    Everyone kept telling me how well I was coping with things, how great I was doing. I realize now, that I was merely in shock. I’ve decided that shock is a blessing, in times such as those. I had a bit of a breakdown a few years later, seemingly out of the blue, but in retrospect, it had been a long time coming.

    We were 1200 miles from any family during all of that, except for my mother, who, like yours, would drop everything and come if we gave a few hours notice. I think our families did care, but they were not near enough to really be there for us. But our friends were, in so many ways, even better than family. They were always there for us, in the most amazing ways. Denae has often commented on how she is amazed at how many people have come from the East Coast to visit us since we moved to Austin. Those are the friends who became even closer than our own family, who walked through those fires with us. Without those friends, Gaylon and I both would never have survived those years.

    Now that we are back in Texas where pretty much most of our family is, we are still closer to our friends than family. You all are so blessed to have such large, close family relationships. It’s something we’ve always coveted.

    What we can tell you is that God is faithful, and truly, His grace is sufficient. What we can attest to is that these “dark nights” do finally pass. We can also tell you that we ‘get it’. Since we moved to Austin, your family has been so gracious to us, and we can never express how grateful we are to all of your clan for embracing us so warmly. We are not ‘real’ family, but we do love all of you, and we are here, if you guys need anything. We can never repay the amazing friends who loved us through our dark times in North Carolina, but we can pay it forward by being there for others. For you and your family. And we will keep praying, of course. . . 🙂

    reply
  4. Norma  November 26, 2014

    I will pray this time is filled with peace and that strength will surpass your tribulations. I am sorry to hear of your Momma’s passing and your Father’s(in- law) illness. May God bless you with abundant Grace.

    reply

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