On the September long weekend about a month ago, I attended my brother Nat and his wife Mary’s fortieth wedding anniversary. They have five adult children, all happily married with seventeen grandchildren, nearly all below the age of ten.
The gathering was initiated and orchestrated by the children as a surprise party, hosted by all five of them at one of their homes. Except for Nat’s car recognition abilities on the drive up, both would have been totally surprised and there were many stories of the lengths gone to in order to keep the surprise intact.
Part of the night’s entertainment was a planned forty speeches each to be forty seconds long; appropriate for a fortieth anniversary don’t you think. As it happened, fewer than forty chose to speak but all were appropriately short. I had something planned but changed it during the party and instead gave a heart-felt tribute lauding Nat and Mary, especially for being such great role models for marital and family oriented success; emulated by all of their children.
I stayed at Nat and Mary’s that night and part of our morning conversation was about ways and means N&M had used to transition from parents into friends and equals with their adult children. I too have transitioned into a friend and equal with my (four) children but there is a large difference in our approach. N&M clearly have a family first priority whereas my priority has always been humanity.
My first wife and mother of my four children who died about a decade ago from cancer shared this family first orientation. It was not an issue that divided us, however my children were raised within that ethic as they were raised by their mother after we separated before any of my children were teenagers; and some of my children, perhaps all would prefer me to adopt this orientation and at times resent my broader approach.
N&M have done an amazing job within this family first orientation and it was on full display during the gathering. Do I wish I had made different choices? It was a good opportunity to assess this and my forty second speech could have been so interpreted; but my Truth is that I am living my mission and it is broader than a family first orientation would have allowed. Yes, my children and their families are hugely important to me and I am thankful that we all live in Calgary and get together regularly and I love them each dearly.
But my priority is humanity and I am totally focused on my mission and on delivering my unique gift to all of humanity. I would not have it any other way even though it has meant that my children have had to fend for themselves and find their own way with me being a long-distance father, both in distance (I lived in Toronto, 3000 plus kilometres away for a couple of decades) and emotionally as I live a far more separate life than do N&M.
Would I choose differently if I could do it all over again? No, I would not. Living one’s mission is the greatest gift any person can give, both to themselves and to their loved ones.
Freedom for humanity…