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Holidays remind us to find the strength to forgive

Justine Fedak | Ramzi Dreessen~Sun-Times Splash

Justine Fedak | Ramzi Dreessen~Sun-Times Splash

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Updated: December 26, 2013 6:02AM

Most people don’t know that I haven’t spoken to my mother in 10 years. I know that many people have estrangements in their families, but after a decade, I’ll admit that I can’t recall the exact thing that caused me to think my life would be better without the drama that seemed to be constant with her.

I recently had to confront my feelings about my relationship with my mom when my best friend’s father became ill and fell into an irreversible coma. Before he got sick, he had been estranged from his younger brother for nearly 20 years — but surprisingly, he only referred to him in the most positive ways when talking about the past, speaking lovingly and telling proud stories about their early years.

He stayed in this coma for five days, and during one of my visits, the staff explained to us that people often wait to die until everyone they love has said goodbye. I went to bed that night haunted by the fact that this man likely loved his brother so much that he was waiting to hear his voice one last time.

Finally — after repeated and unsuccessful attempts to convince his brother to visit — my friend’s family told their dying father that his brother had called. He passed 15 minutes later.

At the funeral, I had a heavy heart. I was sad for the older brother and his family, but oddly, the younger brother had given me a great gift: He forced me to dig deep. I realized that should my mother find herself in a similar situation, I would go to her. And I’ll make sure my heart is full of open love and forgiveness.

I always have approached Thanksgiving as a wonderful time to reconnect with people I’ve lost touch with, people I love but don’t see often enough, who I secretly think about and am thankful for. How often do we forget to tell people what they mean to us? Because of my friend’s loss, this Thanksgiving holiday won’t be the same for my friend — or for me. There will be an empty seat at the table and heavy hearts. So this holiday, I’m going to do three things differently:

1) I’m going to continue to be thankful for all of the people in my life.

2) I’m going to call 13 people (since it’s 2013) who I think about often, but haven’t made time to connect with, and tell them what they mean to me.

I’m going to think about how my friend’s dad never stopped loving his brother. And because I don’t want to be that brother who didn’t have the guts to visit his loved one in those last special moments, finally ...

3) I’m going to call my mother. And I’m going to thank her for all that she taught me by creating adversity in my life. She made me a more empathic, open and understanding person. She made me realize that as a mother, I will never miss anything that matters to my daughter, so she won’t feel as I did growing up.

I’m going to see the good she gave me, and be thankful.

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