Last week brought to a close my fourth week on the road. This week by far was the most adventurous, though not for the reasons one would have expected or predicted on this journey. This past week included a death, a relapse, and a gift!
A death in the family: On Monday, my father-in-law passed away after a brief illness. What started out as relatively routine elective surgery in January resulted in an infection that took his life. My father-in-law has been in my life for 36 years. Though I didn’t always deserve it, he treated me as his son and loved me unconditionally as member of his family.
My father-in-law had a very special relationship with his only daughter, my wife. He demonstrated and modeled being a loving, kind, and encouraging father to his daughter and helped me experience joy that come with that wonderful gift.
I am grateful for his presence in my life. It was hard to say good-by; but, I will always be blessed by his presence and his love.
Brandon’s relapse: On Wednesday, Brandon had another significant relapse. As we speak, all I can share is only what I know — he started using again and is now in jail. Since Yvonne and I were both in North Carolina at the time, dealing with her father’s passing, we haven’t spoken with him and do not know the details.
I continue to be saddened and frustrated by the timing and outcomes of his choices. He has not learned how to manage life’s conflicts and certainly has a long way to go before he is in a position to celebrate any prolonged recovery in his life. As his father, I can only hope this time in jail will help him organize his thoughts and future actions better. I will always love him, no matter what. In my pain, I will have to work very hard to find the words and the behaviors to encourage and love him, without criticism, condemnation, or judgement while offering him hope and challenging him to embrace responsibility for a different approach in his recovery.
Homecoming and love: My in-laws live in Newton, NC. It is about 45 minutes outside of Charlotte. By my definition, they are way out in the country. What I experienced this weekend was the greatest and most significant outpouring of genuine love ever. I learned the true spirit of southern country living.
Everything associated with my father-in-law’s funeral was at the church — visitation, ceremony, cemetery, and afterward. We were loved, supported, encouraged, and fed. The genuine affection, concern, and deep faith of the people I met moved me in a very powerful way. I watched my wife and her family suffer in the pain of the loss of her father and, at the same time, receive the biggest most powerful, authentic, and genuine hug from the congregation. This was not ceremony — it was real, sincere, and comforting!
As I reflect on the events of the week, I am reminded of the pain we all deal with — death, addiction, job loss, relationship struggles, illness. Every single one of these challenges are difficult to deal with and manage alone. We all need someone!
Nothing is more powerful than love and forgiveness. Giving love those who are hurting, struggling, or lost is a wonderful gift. In order to do that, we must first look past our and their transgressions and forgive. For it is in love that we find peace, joy, happiness, and encouragement. It is in love that others receive strength, inspiration, and hope. Most importantly, true love is unconditional and unending. Without it, life is lost. With it, there is hope and opportunity. Give love to others — freely and unconditionally — and you will find peace and joy in the process.