This morning the sun came up, the coffee pot was turned on and as usual I checked my phone for any overnight news. It was then I learned that my husband’s grandpa had entered the ICU overnight and wouldn’t be coming out. My daughter ran up to him as he sprawled on the love seat.
“Daddy, are you sad? Do you need some noodle soup to feel you better?”
She thought that since daddy had brought me chicken noodle soup when I was sick, that soup must cure all problems, body and soul. What I love about this is that she is learning the art of authentic empathy at her level, and for a two year old soup seems like a perfect solution. Heartbreakingly, she will quickly learn that this world hands us a multitude of problems that can’t be healed with noodle soup.
As we grow up we encounter a chain of painful problems, people leave this world and seasons of life will end. Within me is a gut level desire to shield my children from pain as long as possible, but I know that isn’t possible or in their best interest. I have to be authentic and real with them when we encounter pain at whatever level is appropriate for them.
If, as a family, we don’t foster an attitude of honestly and connection in the midst of struggles, we will drift apart into people who just pretend around a turkey a few times a year.
There are families with children of all ages from 2- 72 who never learned how to connect when things get hard, so when pain comes to their family, their fear of it can cause frustration and additional pain. I am determined to be a family, a sister and a friend who is authentic and real. When troubles come, I want to lean into those I love on the good days and weather the storms in the same boat. I long to laugh together on the good days and cry over bowls of noodle soup on the bad days.
I’m able to do this well because it’s how I was raised. I come from two incredibly close families, the Verkaiks and the McCallums, who love each other fiercely and refuse to drift apart. Being a child of these families is one of my favorite things about myself, I love my aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins on a deep level. When they hurt, so do I, and when I’ve been hurting they’ve loved, supported and carried me. Through God’s grace I will pass this blessing onto my children and grandchildren.
We don’t do anything fancy, it’s really quite simple.
We gather tightly, in earnest, when the pain comes, after the deaths of both my parents I was lovingly surrounded and we grieved as a group Our mutual pain brought us closer rather than fracturing us farther apart.
We love our God and cling to him desperately. We talk about him often, when we are blessed and when we hurt, whenever we see him we identify his hand.
We are real about where we find ourselves. When it hurts we don’t pretend, but instead we name our pain, feelings and frustrations. Authentic love and support is a balm for our wounds.
We laugh together all the time. I can honestly say that this is a real practice in our family. Even at funerals and hospitals, we remember the bright spots in the midst of the gray.
We do life together, a foundation of love and memories supports the painful bits like layer upon layer of brick supports a large structure.
If you want a family who weathers life in the same boat, who shares noodle soup instead of battling over it, there is always time. Forgive, connect and begin something new, it won’t be easy but you won’t regret it. As long as you have hours you have time to learn and pass along this way of living. It is what we are made for and it sustains our souls like a good bowl of chicken noodle soup sustains our stomachs.
I know not every family of origin is willing to connect, but I believe that God will send a “family” to everyone if they are open to receive it.
This is the way we weather this life and this is a legacy that spans deep into my past that I am bite my bottom lip determined to give my children.