Years ago, my sister had an argument with my husband. At the time, I was out of state visiting a dear friend who was being baptized along with her husband, and four children. When I returned home, my mother and my sister refused to have a familial relationship with me based on the events that transpired while I was away. Indeed, they did not talk to me for ten years.
Initially, I was gravely wounded. Suddenly I was no longer welcome at family events. My sister even refused to attend my middle daughter’s baptism. She would not return my salutations if we found ourselves at the same place in town. It was very awkward and embarrassing, but even more so, emotionally and spiritually painful.
As the years progressed, our relationship continued to deteriorate. My sister was unfriendly to my children. My relationship with her children was severed as well. My daughter missed her cousins. After a few years, my mother called me and said that I needed to mend the fence between my sister and I. I didn’t see any way to accomplish my mother’s wishes as my sister refused to acknowledge my existence.
Eventually, the place that my sister held in my heart was filled with other people. I found friends who were very kind to me, and who loved me. They were happy to do things with me, to go places with me, to have me over for their children’s milestones, and to attend the events marking the milestones within the lives of my children. Life has continued on this way for quite some time, and I have become very comfortable with it.
My sister and I now live in different states rather than down the street from each other. I rarely see her or hear from her. She has recently divorced and during the dissolution of her marriage, she would call me when she felt despair. We would talk for a while. I would remind her of her strengths and finer qualities. We would discuss her options, and once her confidence would return, we would conclude our conversations.
I was talking with my youngest daughter last week. She is having a milestone event at the end of this week and then she will be gone for eighteen months. It just so happens that my sister is going to be in town, along with two of her children, when this event takes place. The obvious question is, should we invite her? Familial obligations require that we do. Our other guests, family members, would feel much relieved if we would. Here is the issue, my children barely know my sister. They feel no familial obligation toward her. The few times they have been around her have not been pleasant times. Due to the mote between us, I am quite indifferent toward her myself. Twenty years ago, I would have invited her and been heartbroken at her absence. Twenty years ago, I did invite her. Her absence crushed the heart of my eight-year-old when her aunt refused to attend her baptism.
As I sit and ponder the situation this morning, I am annoyed that there is even a question. My duty is to my immediate family, my child. My sister is now my extended family and as such, qualifies as a secondary consideration. (If being a funeral director has done nothing else for me, it has clarified line of kinship; its responsibilities, legalities, and obligations.) If I invite my sister, I wonder will there be discomfort? Might she refuse to attend and cast a feeling of rejection on the heart of my youngest daughter as she did twenty years ago upon the heart of my older daughter? Her history indicates the likelihood of these worries. This occasion is so sacred, so anticipated, and so life changing that I do not want anything to mar its beauty. Indeed, I have cancelled many obligations and put off many events to protect the final few weeks I shall spend with my daughter before she leaves.
My siblings have asked me to consider my sister’s feelings and invite her. I know they would feel much more comfortable if I would, and I have given it much thought. My daughter’s accomplishment, however, is not my sister’s – it is my daughter’s. The event should be protected against any distractions and unpleasantness. Unfortunately, having my sister there has the potential for both.
As a funeral director, I see all too often the regret and guilt my clients feel over situations like this one. I continually advise them to mend fences and forgive each other. I do not want to go to my grave, nor do I wish for my sister to go to her grave with deep regrets that could easily be nullified with simple apologies and forgiveness. This weekend, however, is not about my sister and me, it is about my daughter and I. It is a time for me to concentrate, witness, and facilitate my youngest daughter’s life change from being my little girl to being an adult woman. By the way, my sister’s son will be enjoying this same event in his life three months from now. Although I am very happy for him, I do not anticipate an invitation.
Disclaimer: My sister probably has a different opinion on this matter