by Jontie Hays~I was sitting in the ICU today where my husband’s brother Jack laid with only hours to days to live. He just turned 45. I came with my husband who I have been separated from for 8 months after 21 years of marriage. We have two children, Jackson 17 and Jade 14.
My ex- brother- in- law Shawn, drove with us to see Jack. Shawn was married to my husband’s sister Jennifer for 10 years. They have been divorced about 4 years and have two children, Jason 18 and Jasmine, 11. Jack and his wife Tami divorced after 22 years together about 3 years ago. They share a daughter Zoe, who is 14.
Last night my husband was at the hospital with Jennifer and Jade. Today before we left, Tami, Zoe, Jennifer and Jason came.
I looked around the room reflecting on the history we all shared. All of the adults there were in their mid to late 40’s. Almost a quarter of a century together as a family. We grew up together, we had our children together, we divorced together. Our family changed but it did not end.
All of our children have been fortunate enough to grow up in the same town and have always been close and although their interaction on a daily basis has ebbed and flowed over the last several years they still remain close as they have come into their own.
Death has shown me that while divorce and separation has it’s tensions, somehow the history we all share allows us to have grace with one another. My husband and Shawn, still ride bikes together, They have even gone on cycling trips together. Jennifer and Tami became good friends after Tami and Jack divorced. Jennifer and I may not be as close as we once were but we still have love and honor with each other. I go to Jennifer’s fitness contests to support her.
We are still aunts and uncles even though we are not related by marriage anymore. We still carve out time to spend time together as a family. Anger, misunderstandings and resentment rises and falls as our family evolves but here we are.
Death is not an end but only energy in transition. As I sat there today, I realized divorce is not an end to a family but is itself a type of energy in transition. Energy consisting of history and love; Memories of happiness, sadness, anger… It never ceases to exist regardless of changes is marital status, geographic locations in life or death.
As I watched our children watching us, I felt blessed beyond belief. In the grief of losing Jack, our children were able to see that family bonds extend far beyond the labels humans place on each other. Our children are able to witness that although relationships do not always remain the same, they can still be a part of our life and what really makes a relationship beautiful does not have to disappear. Over the past 5 years with divorce and separation going on in our family, our children are able to witness how our own belief systems are what truly define what family is.
On his last day, immediate family filtered in and out. Throughout the day Jack’s ex-wife Tami and his daughter Zoe kept Vigil.
John, a paternal uncle came from California. He sat by his nephew’s bedside all day, holding his hand and talking to him. It was the first time he ever met his nephew Jack. But he knew what is was to be in recovery. Jack did not make it to that point but John told him it was okay; He was still a wonderful man who was surrounded by people who loved him.
Yesterday Jack died with Tami and Zoe by his bedside. I came with Jade and Jasmine as soon as I could. Jim and Jennifer arrived with their mom. Shawn made sure Jasmine stayed with Jennifer for the night even though it was “his night”.
It was a time of heartache and will be for a long time to come for those who loved Jack. But in his death Jack gave all of us a beautiful gift; An opportunity to change our beliefs about endings…a chance to show our children that love is energy itself; It cannot be contained in anything that is defined my mere labels, roles or change in circumstances. In his death Jack has shown us TRUTH; Love and acceptance are unconditional and a choice we can make every day, every hour and every minute.
Through this experience it has made me proud to be human with all of our flaws, mistakes and imperfections for that is what makes us truly beautiful.
“Family life is full of major and minor crises — the ups and downs of health, success and failure in career, marriage, and divorce — and all kinds of characters. It is tied to places and events and histories. With all of these felt details, life etches itself into memory and personality. It’s difficult to imagine anything more nourishing to the soul“~Thomas Moore