A Blog Post by Assistant Residential Director Michael Gaffey
With Siblings Day approaching in our Village calendar, I’ve been asked to reflect upon the significance of siblings and family. I find myself hard pressed to begin. Such a simple concept; such a difficult concept to express simply!
We are all of us, in our own ways, directly and deeply formed through our relationships with each other. Our families are, for many of us, the foundation upon which our other relationships are built – successfully, we hope, and unsuccessfully, we may sometimes unfortunately find – but always upon this foundation. That foundation then further reinforced throughout the vast array of our personal experiences, our families become the substructures upon which we construct our lives and express ourselves and our loves. I’ve seen the value of this, in a real sense, many times, whether through my professional experiences at NEV, or my own, personal encounters as a son, brother, and father. I’d often thought, both at the moment and later on, looking back, that my time spent at NEV had been preparing me in many ways for my own future. Time spent in my direct interactions with the amazing people whom I’ve had the privilege to serve, certainly, yet also, and often, much more powerfully, through the observation of their families (you!), and your incredible acts and moments of commitment and devotion. Personal sacrifices of time and schedules; countless dollars spent to provide for so much “above and beyond”; countless hours spent in hospital rooms and doctors’ offices; a regular, steady presence when the winds of changes shift: all of these are powerful witnesses to the foundations of family. I have seen their value proven time and time again, and have also witnessed the impact that they can have in their absence.
Emily Dickinson, not uniquely, is among my favorite poets. Writing about her relationship with her sisters in “One Sister Have I in Our House”, she tells the truth of things, in a far more eloquent (and plainer!) fashion than I may ever do:
“Today is far from Childhood
But up and down the hills
I held her hand the tighter
Which shortened all the miles”
These things were in my mind recently as I was helping my brother through a health concern. The lessons conveyed to myself and my brother and sisters from our parents (my mom, truly, as is so often the case) returned to us, strongly, as we drew upon each other to provide support for him. In so many other ways, the pattern repeats, as we are helping each other through this thing called life; being able to be present for our mother and each other when we faced the death of our father; rallying to help our mother in her own aging process; supplying and supporting each other as we parent our own children, and seek to pass those lessons we learned. And, through that prism, we watch our own, in turn, and hope to see the seeds that were planted in us bear fruit in them.
Day to day life is not easy, and any path we start upon will take many turns as we make our way. We have miles behind us (some more than others, some less) and miles more to go. Our journeys are made a bit easier when we have hands to hold, and which in turn hold ours, along the way.