In early 2013, I received news my mother had been diagnosed with fourth stage lung cancer. My younger sister, with whom Mom lived, had given me a call to let me know. No one was surprised. She had smoked cigarettes most of her adult life, and if we were to be surprised, it would be that something like this hadn’t happened many years before in the course of her life.
Our mother lived her life as an untreated, unrecovered alcoholic. It colored every part of her life. At the age of 14, I moved in with my Aunt Bonnie and her family in Missouri. My parents divorced and moved to San Antonio, Texas, taking with them my much adored baby sister, Keri. I visited Mom and Keri a little at first and then hardly ever. Mom’s disease had a negative impact on us, but it was far more difficult for Keri. The only adult in her life was unable to properly care for her. She was essentially an abandoned child. I kept in touch with Keri over the years, but there was always geographical distance and I was putting myself through college and pharmacy school. There was never enough time or money.
When I married Bennett, we both made efforts to have my sister visit and to travel and spend time with her; but I felt the sister I loved so very much did not and could not know to trust my love for her. She made an effort. She desired it, but there was always a wall between us. How could there NOT be? Most adults in her life had mislead, disappointed, and abandoned her.
One thing we shared was a strong belief in God. My little sister was only three years old when she moved away from me. But she held onto the belief system introduced to her young self through much neglect and difficulty as she matured. My life was rocky and untraditional; but in my “bouncing around” I had, thankfully, landed upon an occasional angel. Tragic as our history was, there was always something bigger than us, and I think we both always felt the presence of God. We knew we were His children and we knew He loved us, even when it seemed we were unlovable.
But that shared belief still wasn’t enough to erase the years of pain suffered. I had walked away like everyone else. Her child’s heart was still wounded, even though logically, she knew I had been only a child as well. I had decided to keep offering her my love, but resigned myself to the fact she may never believe in love enough to trust in me.
““Which commandment is the first of all?”Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one;you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12:28-31 NRSV,
Reflection Question: How have you loved God, even when you were unsure how to love others?
Prayer: Loving God, help us to have confidence and trust in your abundant love. Amen.
Posted on Tue, March 8, 2016
by Heather Portillo