Apr. 11, 2016

Shared moments

Sharing is one important element of family life. A lot of families carry unshared stories. They live memorable but not shared moments. Lived moments can be experiences that occur at particular point in the life of a family. They could be positive or negative experiences. A lot of families go through such moments together while some families live them out individually. These include vacation, work, school, sports. It could also be in the form of relationships such as divorce, bereavement and loss.

In 2008, for example, my family lost our mom to a sudden aneurism as a result of stroke. She was sixty years old. Mom's death hit us like a tornado, the greatest shock we could ever experience. We all focussed on what her absence meant for the family. The funeral was well organized and took place after two weeks. We buried mom but not the memory or the shock. My dad seemed the most affected, even though all of us were. He wouldn't talk about it, neither could any of us. My family tradition is that we talked about almost everything- jokes, achievements, failures, opportunities, adventures, name it. But wouldn't we talk about mom's death? We did everything as a family, took photos of the funeral, cleaned up in the end, but never shared our story. Everyone shied away from it.

Following the custom in Igboland of Nigeria, my family united for the memorial service of mom one year later. It was another big occasion, this time with much reduced tension than the funeral. It was more of a survival/thanksgiving event for mourners. It was at this time that we shared the story of mom's death in a detailed, intimate way. It was also the time that we expressed our various experiences and how her death affected each and every one of us. We had prayers said together and then watched the video of the funeral ceremony. That brought great relief to all, and to me personally.

In the course of home blessings, I've recognized the value of sharing stories and experiences  together as family. I met individuals who needed to share their stories with someone. Importantly, these individuals needed someone to trust, someone to keep their stories intact for them. During home blessing visits, individuals share stories of their losses, like in my case. Some share stories of success. Some share stories of their spiritual pilgrimage as couple. Some share stories of their return to God after a long sojourn away. Some share their challenges in parental responsibilities, or disappointments with children. Some share stories of fear and anxiety, while others share stories of their faith and hope in God. Some share stories of vacations, etc. Those opportunities of sharing bring great relief and comfort to the homes. It provides support to the family or individual with the belief that he/she is not alone.

Although such moments have been lived in the past, they were never shared. The family apostolate helps bring family together to share their stories. It recognizes that stories are complete only when they are shared. If not, they remain bottled up in the individual who carries them. Family apostolate creates the safe place for stories to be shared in a most intimate, profound and spiritual way.