ugh. I really didn’t want to write this post. I’ve procrastinated for a few days now but can’t run from it any longer. On Tuesday I wrote a post called love is boundless. Looking back I am glad that I shared what I did but there’s a whole other story behind the scenes. See, that phrase has been haunting me for weeks now. When I began writing the love is boundless post I heard God say, “Don’t chicken out. Tell the story”. Well I chickened out. I was afraid. I threw in the story of the good Samaritan and pressed the publish button. I knew what God was asking of me, I just flat-out didn’t want to listen. Ever feel that way?
So here is the real story…my story. the story of love knowing no bounds.
I grew up with two loving parents in a stable, religious household. Looking back I never witnessed hostility or division in my family. And I am extremely grateful for that. I knew I was loved and I loved everyone in my family.
I wasn’t confronted with the reality of choosing love until the summer of 2002. My mother had died two years earlier and I was still dwelling in anger and depression that her death had produced in me. That summer I decided to take a 3 month journey that included Northern Ireland, New York and Virginia. Ireland was a time of rest as well as wrestling with my questions of faith. This was the beginning of my spiritual journey and my first move towards restoration and I didn’t even know it yet. I flew back to New York from Ireland and decided to spend a month there for a few reasons. The most important being that my mother is from New York. Brooklyn to be exact. My uncle and grandparents were still living in Brooklyn and I decided to take some time to get to know them. You first have to understand that my mom had a very tense, almost toxic relationship with her family. I grew up only seeing them a handful of times and after my youngest brother was born (when I was 9) we never saw them again. Rarely heard from them either, even at holidays. My mom had always been honest with me about her relationship with her family. They had never approved of her marrying my father, a Southern Baptist Kentucky boy who was in the Marines which was far from their hope of her marrying a Roman Catholic, Polish man to continue in family traditions. My mother had “rebelled” and we were all being punished for that.
So I arrived in New York and took a taxi to my uncle’s house. We spent the next few days trying to figure each other out. He was disgusted with the fact that I had grown up to become a lot like my mother: fiercely independent, stubborn, creative and liberal. I was disgusted that he was exactly who I had imagined he would be: judgmental, bitter and a totally mama’s boy. He told me that my mom’s parents wanted to see me while I was visiting. After a lot of resistance I said yes. This next encounter haunted me for years to come…
I walked up the steps to their brownstone building in the middle of Brooklyn with my heart racing. Would they accept me? Would they want to get to know me? I knocked on the door and seconds later my grandmother opened it. She took one long look at me and slammed the door. In my face. I could have run at that moment but something pushed me to knock again. This time my grandfather opened the door and let me in. He explained that my grandmother had dementia and she thought I was my mother. For the next few hours I sat in their apartment and listened to story after story of how my mother was a disappointment to them, how she left home and abandoned them. My grandmother yelled at me often, mostly when she thought I was my mother but once when she knew it was me. She looked directly in my eyes and said, “You say you are my granddaughter? I have no grandchildren. You are nobody to me” wow. I left there speechless and filled with sadness. But I finally understood why my mother chose to distance herself from them years earlier. She chose to protect her children from such toxic and hateful people. I understand my mother so much more now because of this experience and I’m only sad that I never got the chance to tell her that.
As I left New York I knew that I had a choice: to love these people in spite of their words and actions, or hate them. I clearly remember boarding a train to Virginia Beach and choosing hate.
(story continues here)