Can someone’s death be a good thing?
Can my mother’s death be a good thing?
It was early September and we were gathered around the dinner table at my brother’s house in Miami. My family – cousins, sister-in-law, brother, wife – had spent the previous forty-eight hours mourning the sudden and unexpected passing of my mother. And following a viewing and a Mass, it was time to do what Cubans do and reminisce on the days of old.
From my perspective, it was a glorious childhood. My maternal grandparents had five children. Each of them had two children. We were a clan of ten cousins and I was the penultimate, only four years older than the youngest. For the most part, we’d met every Friday night at my grandparents’ house. Games of tag gave way to movie nights and sleepovers, and even though we were mostly disparate, we were there for each other.
There were varying ages and personalities. The older cousins were trailblazers and made a lot of things possible for me. I learned so much from watching them and listening to them. When I look back at the failures in my life, I think I would’ve been better served had I chosen to listen a little more.
But that glorious childhood succumbed to the passage of time, college years, marriages, and, eventually, kids of our own. We all grew up and went on with our lives, and in many ways, there was never a sense of closure on that period of our lives. It just went away.
So there we were, gathered around the table, the tension as thick as mud. For me at least, anyway.
When I think about it now, I realize how silly it was. How silly it was for me to let years – over a decade – pass and watch what once was robust and loving relationships dangle in the proverbial wind. I didn’t care to call. I didn’t bother to text. Why? It’s almost too embarrassing to admit out loud, but the truth is a simple one:
Millions of Americans will take to the polls on Tuesday and cast their vote for President of the United States. Millions of Americans have already done so with early voting periods and absentee ballets. We are privileged to live in a country where we have the opportunity to participate in democracy, and if you’re eligible to vote, I hope you exercise that right and make your voice heard.
And it’s okay to be passionate about your causes. It’s one of the things that makes us great as a country. The diversity of opinion, the resonance of debate, the emergence of new ideas; all these things reach deep into the foundation on which America was built. The problem emerges when we let these passions divide us. And that is exactly what I realized I had done with my family. I let my personal ideology cloud and come before the literal life-long relationships I shared with my cousins … as well as the relationship I shared with my brother.
As a Christ-follower, I see now how awful that is. It took time and reflection for me to get to this realization. It also took listening to Andy Stanley’s message series Talking Points for this to really hit home.
“Your political candidate will win or lose based on how the citizens of the United States vote on a single Tuesday in November. But the church wins or loses, the community wins or loses, in some way our nation wins or loses, based on how we treat each other and love each other and love our world every single day between now and then. Disagree politically, but love unconditionally, and pray for unity.” – Andy Stanley
I failed at doing this. Failed miserably.
But there we were, huddled in a room, united by blood and marriage, all coming together to clear the air, bury the hatchet, and reset among ourselves. And through tears and through the realization of my own selfish and arrogant thinking, I told them this, “Regardless of who you vote for on November 3, I will still love you.”
For me, at least, it was a powerful and emotional moment, one that capped off a very emotional forty-eight hours. And we all would not have been there if not for the sudden and unexpected passing of my mother.
Can someone’s death be a good thing? As my mother loved to say, “No hay mal que por bien no venga.”