Sometimes in life we take things for granted, including the ones closest to us. Family is very important in my life. My brother, sister and I were raised to be best friends with one another from the time we were kids. Growing up on a farm created the perfect environment for bonding. Ever since Liz and I lived together in our twenties, my father always encouraged us to work together, knowing that we would always be there for each other. At that time, it sounded like one of my father’s family talks that I’d heard a hundred times before.
Even after being in business together for 15 years, Liz and I are still best friends and business partners, and are trying to change the world in whatever way possible, whether big or small. My brother, who lives in Minnesota, was my best friend growing up, and he helped shape the person that I am today. Rich and I keep up with each other the best we can, though with our busy schedules, we don’t connect as much as I would like to.
One of the most comforting things to know is that my brother and sister will be there for me if I need them. I always remind myself how lucky I am that we are all happy and healthy, and that we have each other. We dealt with quite a bit growing up, seeing my father struggle with Multiple Sclerosis, and watching my mother contend with the pain of seeing her husband’s health deteriorate month, after month and year after year. After all of this, I figured the universe wouldn’t put anything else on our plate to deal with, right? Wrong.
Early one Sunday morning, I received a phone call from my brother’s wife saying that Rich had a seizure in the middle of the night and was in the hospital. My heart sank and I was in pure shock. She explained everything that happened to him, how long it lasted and how the paramedics had to keep asking him what day it was and what his name was when he gained consciousness. My brother was completely disoriented. He had a difficult time answering their questions. She continued to tell me that they found a lesion on his brain.
I was on the verge of losing it when I realized that Patricia must have been at the brink of an emotional breakdown herself, and my sobbing would only make things worse. Panic set in immediately. I began thinking of all the things that this could mean. I kept telling myself to remain positive. In just that moment, a wave of emotion came over me. I thought about not having my brother anymore. I started reflecting on our time growing up on the farm, playing football, lacrosse, fishing, fixing fences, chasing cows and pigs, and him torturing me by putting his smelly socks in my bed and stapling my sheets together.
Years later, my kids and I spent time with him and his wife in Minnesota at Lake Ely. I wanted to give them the life experiences that I had growing up. I remember running through fields, making up games using sticks and rocks. Those were the simple things in life that can easily slip away in the busy world I live in now. All of those experiences were priceless!
As Rich laid in the hospital, I thought of never being able to share that with him again, and my kids missing out on precious time with their silly Uncle Rich. Finally, the doctors figured out it was a Cavernoma, which is a cluster of blood vessels on the brain and NOT something as life threatening as a tumor. I was so grateful that it wasn’t something fatal, but something that could be watched closely and dealt with by medication and surgery. The diagnosis was serious, but compared to the other options we would take it. Rich is 45 and is now on seizure medication and still recovering.
When we spoke, I remembered again why he has been such a great influence in my life.
He said, ‘I am so lucky that this wasn’t fatal, and that I have an amazing wife that has taken care of me in this moment of uncertainty, and that my office is in close proximity to home so I can walk to work instead of drive.’ He always seems to see the glass half full at a time when he has every reason to complain about the negative.
Reflecting on this moment brought me such an appreciation for my family and made me truly understand how fortunate I am to have the type of relationships with them that I do. I know many people that have estranged relationships with their family, and all I can offer them is encouragement to find a place in their heart to accept the differences, agree to disagree, and find time to celebrate the relationship they can have today. It can be as simple as a call to check in, or as ambitious as a family vacation to create memories together. Life is short. Yesterday can’t be changed and the ‘Now’ is all we have.
Let today be the day to say a ‘Radical Yes’ to family.