My oldest brother Jim was 18 years old and out on his own when I was born into the Thomas household. He and I never had much opportunity to develop a deep relationship. Then as the years passed, we grew farther and farther apart. I was a whole generation younger, and we just couldn't relate to each other. On occasion, differences of opinion or life choices forced more distance into our strained relationship.
This past April, Jim became ill and had to visit the Emergency Room. He never went back to work. It was an aggressive cancer. His brave and valiant fight became a losing battle as he grew weaker with each procedure and each treatment. I sent cards of encouragement and visited him a couple of times. His condition grew worse; there was yet another hospitalization. I knew I needed to be with him and his family.
It was a foggy, rainy December day and just as dreary on the inside of the ICU room. Jim was awake and aware, but unable to speak, too weak to move anything but a finger.
I spoke to him of good memories, like how he would put me in the saddle atop his favorite horse when I was only a toddler. I was thrilled as I held on tightly to the saddle horn while he led the horse around the yard. Once when I was sick, he brought me a cloth doll that was dressed in red pajamas. One year he helped Santa bring my first bicycle. Later, on a particularly cold Christmas when I was a teenage driver, my car battery died and, Jim rescued me with a new one.
The more I thought about those good memories, the more I remembered. Truth Principle teaches us, "That on which we focus grows in our minds." One by one I related those stories to my brother as he looked at me through tired eyes. Perhaps for the first time in my life, I felt he really saw me. Because he couldn't talk, he really heard me.
At the end of my storytelling, I leaned in close and made this promise, "Brother, I promise I will remember the good times. Anything else is water under the bridge." At that, he squeezed my hand. We had a deal.
Twenty-four hours later, my brother drew his last breath and was at peace. And I am a better person for committing to remember the best of him and of our relationship.
The people in our lives are not perfect. Often they do not show up exactly as we would like them to be. Disappointments occur. Words are spoken. Separation is created.
This Christmas, I invite you to choose to remember the best in others, to share stories of good memories, to allow forgiveness to wash everything else away.
Sending you peace and love for your holidays. May the new year be full of promise and hope for all your dreams and desires.