QUESTION: Recently, my mother passed away. My sister had been caring for her for the past several years. The problem is she and my two brothers decided not to have any kind of a service for her. Although we all believe in God, I’m the only one who attends church on a regular basis. I can’t seem to get my sister and brothers to understand that a special gathering would be beneficial for all of us to help us with closure. Mom was a dear person and I believe she deserves better.
Do you have any suggestions that would help me convince my family how meaningful and significant a service would be?
Dear Grieving Son,
First of all, my sympathies in the loss of your mother and for the hurt you must feel as the only child who wants to have a service for your mother. One thing you could do is to tell your siblings that you would like to have a service for Mom, not necessarily for her but for you. Tell your siblings that you need to have some kind of closure, and that you would plan it by contacting a church or other gathering place for the remembrance. If they warm to the idea, good. But if they don’t, you could still plan a service and invite them and your mother’s friends and whoever else might want to come. And your planning a service by yourself need not be an “in your face!” occasion. I would stress that you need this, even if nobody else does.
As my late mother told me one time – before she was my “late” mother, of course! – funerals (or memorial services) are for the living, not the dead.
Rev. Skip Lindeman
La Canada Congregational Church
Dear Grieving Son,
I am sorry for your loss. Even when we are caring for a parent whose health is in decline, and we know that this is the last part of the shared journey, death can still surprise us with its finality. It may be that your siblings said their goodbyes to Mom somewhere along the way and simply don’t need the closure that a service provides. This is fine for them, but has clearly left you, and perhaps other friends and family members, feeling more bereft.
In talking to your siblings, you could suggest that there are many ways to go about planning a memorial. Consider opening the conversation by sharing that you’d like to feel closer to them as you grieve together. Funeral homes and churches can be helpful in times like this because we help families grieve all the time, but your family does not have to use us. Gather on a mountaintop or by the sea or in Mom’s living room. Set out photos and mementos, tell favorite stories, share encouraging readings and pray for each other. Eat a favorite family meal, plant memorial flowers or trees, or do do something else that has meaning for your family. Keep it simple, as it sounds like you will be doing the planning and inviting others to join you. If they do – great. If they don’t – let it go. You don’t want to start a family feud in an attempt to bring your family closer.
I’m serious about this. If a memorial event doesn’t happen, or if some people decide not to participate, your spiritual health will be better nourished by personal grief counseling than by harboring resentful feelings towards your siblings.
Peace be with you and your family,
QUESTION: I’ve been dating a wonderful woman for three years. Neither of us is seeing anyone else. We’re both in our late 20s. A year and a half ago, I asked her to marry me and she said she would, “Just not now.” Periodically, I repeat the question, and get the same answer.
I would like to have children and she says she does as well. Since neither of us is getting any younger, I wonder if I should just give up on this relationship. We have a great time together, have like interests and enjoy each other’s family. I really am at a loss of what to do, and welcome any insight that will help me decide how to resolve this issue.
– Not yet a bridegroom
Dear Potential Bridegroom,
It sounds as though you and your girlfriend have a lot going for you. So I am a little perplexed that you would consider giving her up simply because she is not willing to get married yet. It is certainly not as though you are past your prime – in your late 20s. All you say is that she is not ready to get married right now. What I wonder is if you have discussed with her why that is true. The answer to that question might shed some important light on her unwillingness to get married.
Marriage is a serious commitment, and you need to be able to discuss both your hopes and challenges before you are ready to take such a major step.
If you are having trouble having a discussion about those issues, I would suggest your getting some professional help. If you are a part of a religious community, a member of the clergy of that congregation would be a great resource. If not, you could find a counselor who specializes in the area of marriage and family concerns. Often having a trained person to help you see some of the issues can be very helpful. And you don’t want to get married without resolving the issues that seem to be getting in your way.
My hope for you is that you will not give up too soon. Marriage right now is not the only reason to stay together. Try to work things out through mutual sharing and the support of some sort of counseling. In the long run, your efforts to understand each other will pay off. Please take advantage of the time and resources you have now as potential insurance for a fulfilling marriage in the future.
And do let me know how things work out for you.
Rev. Dr. Betty Stapleford,
Church of the Verdugo Hills
Dear “Not yet a Bridegroom,”
I can understand your desire to get married and start a family. Being married with children is a wonderful life experience and nothing to be rushed into or taken lightly, but also not a deal breaker if you truly love her. This might be why she is giving you the “Just not now” response. What if she just needs more time to get clear in her own mind about the situation? You want her to be sure about your situation, so give her as much time as she needs. If you truly feel that she is the person you want to marry, give her time.
Love is not about two people looking “goo goo” eyed at each other. It’s about two people looking out the same window of life together, and loving it. Two people have good grounds for a relationship, if each one celebrates what they do have in life without creating unreal expectations or demands on the other to make up for what they don’t have. What you are not should not be a factor, only what you are.
You might ask yourself, “Would I still love her if she isn’t ready to get married and start a family right now?” If your answer is yes, stay and wait for her. If the answer is no, find someone else who is ready, just don’t look back and wish you had waited for her.