As my husband, daughter, and I were readying ourselves to travel to the nearby city where the assisted living facility was located, I received a text that one sibling of the party would be delayed by an hour. We all agreed that we would delay our arrival to accommodate their tardiness, so my husband, daughter and I rearranged our day. One of my sister’s sons had not seen my mother for many years and needed to leave in a matter of hours. It was therefore decided that he would not delay his arrival at the assisted living facility in order that he might have as much time as possible to visit with his grandmother. To respect this arrangement, and allow my nephew as much time as possible with his grandmother without interference, my husband and I sat in our vehicle in the parking lot waiting for the delayed party for nearly an hour.
As the delayed arrival time was approaching, the late party texted that they were nearly there. I texted them back that as our family had rearranged our schedules to accommodate their needs, my daughter would not be there until the newly agreed upon time. At that point, my husband and I exited our vehicle and were walking to the front entry when the delayed party drove into the parking lot. Rather than coming to the front lobby to politely await our daughter’s arrival, the delayed party slipped into a side entrance and into my mother’s room. In so doing, it now appeared as though my family was arriving late. It also robbed us of our only opportunity to organize and surprise our mother as a group, which we had agreed upon the day before in Dallas. I walked to my mother’s room, and in disappointment and frustration, said something to the entire group of her children and grandchildren and walked out.
As I exited the room, I contemplated just leaving altogether and skipping the entire event. I started to grab my husband to leave and then hesitated. I thought how heartbroken I would be if one day I found myself widowed and living alone in an assisted living facility with an opportunity to see my children and grandchildren all together for the first time in decades; and then, in an instant, through no fault of my own, see that opportunity vaporize before my eyes. That would crush me, and I knew it would do the same to my mother. I instantly realized I could not bear to treat my mother so disrespectfully. I could not be the person to steal her happiness and joy for the sake of pride.
My poor mother has not seen her four children together for nearly 25 years due to a family dispute. She has not seen my sister’s children for nearly four years, and she has never seen my sister’s children with my youngest daughter together. I knew I had to calm myself. I did not want to be that person who magnifies another's rudeness through reacting, rather than stopping it through forgiveness. By the time I had walked down the hall from my mother’s room to the gathering room, I had collected myself and decided to let my irritations go. After all, by next week, everyone would be saying, “Whew, when Tracy got there, she sure was angry, but at least she didn’t ruin everything,” rather than, “Can you believe Tracy? How horrid she was to ruin mother’s last Christmas.” (Well we hope it is not her last Christmas, but one never knows, and how awful would it be if it turned out to be her final one?) My family remained at the event; the day went off beautifully, and everyone got along. We caroled the residents, drank hot chocolate, had a family portrait taken, and left two very happy elderly family members (along with an entire facility of residents) with good cheer.
This morning as I sit in my office writing my article, I still feel the sting of frustration. I know, however, that allowing my family member's actions to influence my behavior negatively yesterday, so much so, that it would have ruined my mother’s holiday, would have been the wrong decision. In the scheme of things, I’ll get over it. In fact, I’ll get over it a lot easier than I would have gotten over losing my composure and seeing everyone's Christmas cheer fade; especially my mother’s.
As a funeral director, I regularly witness the reality of this situation in my client families. In their pasts, one sibling has done something that has caused an unfair separation within their family structures, and over the decades, families have grown apart with hate festering within their hearts. I see the pain they suffer at the funerals of their parents and the shame they feel deep within their souls. My mother will be gone from us soon. I made a decision yesterday that I didn’t want the pain and shame I so often see in my clients, in my future. Therefore, I consciously choose to change my attitude. I chose to willingly disregard the abusive and rude behavior of a family member over correcting her at a special occasion. I chose to protect my mother’s final years of life as ones filled with peace, happiness, and tranquility; to protect the integrity of her holiday experience at my own expense.
I also chose to protect my future. I know that when my mother’s time comes, I will not be sitting separated from my siblings at her funeral services. I will not be sobbing over the pain and anguish brought on through rude behavior at a family gathering. When my mother’s time comes, I will be sitting on the front pew righteously sobbing because I loved her, because I will miss her, and because I understood that in the face of adversity (especially when it involves family), pride is a bitter pill best swallowed.
The day of my mother’s death will be a sad day. The day of my mother’s funeral will likewise be a sad day; but if you are in attendance with the rest of her family and friends, you will see me, Tracy Renee Lee, sitting on the front pew, righteously crying, because yesterday, I earned it.
My name is Tracy Renee Lee. I am the owner and Managing Funeral Director at Queen City Funeral Home in Queen City Texas. I am an author, syndicated columnist, and co-founder of Heaven Sent, Corp. I write books and weekly bereavement articles related to understanding and coping with grief. I am the American Funeral Director of the Year Runner-Up and recipient of the BBB’s Integrity Award. I deliver powerful messages and motivate audiences toward positive recovery. It is my life's work to comfort the bereaved and help them live on.
For additional encouragement, read other articles or watch video “Grief Briefs,” please go to my website at www.MourningCoffee.com.