Family relationships are hard.
The first week of 2022 was an incredibly difficult week. My husband’s father passed away. Grief is hard and unique for every person and no two losses are the same. This loss was complicated by the fact that we have had a very tenuous and strained relationship with my in-laws for the majority of our 25-year marriage. It was hard to watch my husband oscillate back and forth between wanting to remember all the good in his father and still being so hurt by many of the things that have happened in the last couple of decades. I could see how conflicted he was with the turmoil within. And on a smaller scale, I had so much of my own varied feelings to deal with as well.
The funeral was set for a week after his death and the whole week was filled with a myriad of emotions including a lot of anxiety about how the funeral would look as well as being around everyone in his large and fractured family. His sister, who we are close to, kept reaching out to my husband to try to include him in different aspects of the preparations. It was a rollercoaster of emotions each time a request would come. My husband is a very principled man and every decision he makes comes with great thought about what the right thing to do is. He felt deeply that it would be hypocritical to stand up in front of a congregation “pretending” that he had been a part of the family we have felt estranged from for so long. We knew that all of the children in the family were having similar feelings on their own scales and in their own spheres.
How do you genuinely and properly honor a man who has many good qualities, but who also has inflicted so much pain through his imperfections and unwillingness to be vulnerable?
The day of the funeral ended up being one of the most beautiful days with his family that I have experienced. The imperfections and damaged relationships were immediately and openly acknowledged from the pulpit. Memories of his goodness and of his rougher traits were shared. It was genuine. It was vulnerable. And it was perfect.
My beautiful friend, who is also my husband’s sister, got up and shared how difficult her own relationship with her father had been. She also shared how they had worked through some hard things because of their close living proximity. She had learned a lot about his personal fears and weaknesses. She saw how they contributed to the complicated relationships he had with those he had loved in his own flawed way. Then she shared a verse of scripture that had helped her be more forgiving of her parents and some of the unfair things they had done that affected their children so painfully.
Condemn me not because of mine imperfection, neither my father, because of his imperfection, neither them who have written before him; but rather give thanks unto God that he hath made manifest unto you our imperfections, that ye may learn to be more wise than we have been.Mormon 9:31
I know I am not alone when I acknowledge that my parents were not perfect, neither was I perfect as a parent, though I tried so hard to be. We all know our children are more aware than anyone of our flaws and imperfections. We hope that they will extend grace to us in the places we have fallen short. I am sure that, like me, most parents hope that their children will take all that they have given them through their imperfect parenting, sift through it, keep the good and discard the bad. As parents, we hope they will improve upon our offering and be “more wise” than we have been. I am sure that we all hope that each generation will do a little better than the last. And when we look back with 20/20 vision, we are so grateful for the grace extended by our Lord and Savior as we recognize the many, many places where we have not measured up.
My daughter played her guitar and sang the song Amazing Grace. It was absolutely beautiful and such a perfect song to follow my sister-in-law’s remarks.
How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I’m found
Was blind, but now I see
My chains are gone
I’ve been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy reigns
Unending love, amazing grace
None of us are perfect. We are each a perfectly imperfect combination of good and bad traits. We have divine characteristics we must have worked hard to acquire before we came to earth as well as weaknesses that we are painfully aware of and hopefully are working to overcome. The only journey we fully understand is our own. We each desperately need the grace extended to us by Christ and I know personally how grateful I am that it is so available to those who desire to feel its redeeming effects.
The final talk was given by one of my brothers-in-law. He shared some of his mixed feelings and then a quote that filled me with so much hope for the brokenness and unmendable differences in relationships during this life:
How grateful I am that we have been promised not only a third act (which we understand relatively little about), but also an eternity of progress. The loving and merciful nature of the God I know gives me so much hope for not only my own imperfections but also for the imperfections of others and the way those combined flaws resulted in damaged and broken relationships.
As Russell M. Nelson said, “As seedlings of God, we barely blossom on earth; we fully flower in heaven.”
I am grateful for all that has settled on my mind and heart over this last little while. I am grateful for the opportunity to pay tribute to my father-in-law. Truly his greatest legacy was left behind inside his children. There are so many of his amazing traits I see in each of them. I especially see his strength and beauty in my own husband. And even in his flaws, he has affected my husband and our family for good as we have pondered on and implemented needed changes over the years.
Family relationships are hard, but they are also beautiful. Sometimes they bring great joy and sometimes they challenge us to grow and to rise to greater heights in our own lives and in our own interactions with others.
Song: Wasted Time by Unspoken
A Little Help for Little Friends:
The Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ
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