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John shares how to identify family when everything falls apart.

“When everything falls apart, the people who stand by you without flinching, they are your family.”
– Jim  Butcher

Ten days ago one of my nephews came down with the stomach flu. He was in town to celebrate the 4th of July, play with his little cousins and visit with his grandparents. That evening, another nephew complained of a headache. And the following day one of my children started running a fever.

With a series of cousins feeling sick, we took our son to the doctor’s office for what we expected to be strep throat. Shortly after entering the front door of the doctor’s office, we were ushered out the back door, directly to our car with a positive case of Covid.

We weren’t the only ones. In total, five young grandchildren tested positive with Covid. [We are super grateful they all are resting and recovering.]

How a family celebration turned into a Covid spreading event, left John’s father alone in a Skilled Nursing home and ultimately, reminded him of what family means.

And even though my mom had been vaccinated, after a bit of a cough and some shortness of breath, we got her tested. It turned out Mom, who has so much going on right now, contracted Covid, too. As her symptoms worsened, she battled aches, shortness of breath, a fever and nausea. After a week of feeling incredibly ill, she’s slowly beginning to feel better.

A family celebration of Independence Day turned into an unexpected and unlikely spreading event.

In the midst of this family outbreak, and struggling far more than any of his family members diagnosed with Covid, was our sweet Dad.

In a Skilled Nursing Facility, struggling with late-stage Parkinson’s disease, and recovering from a shoulder replacement surgery, he only seemed truly at peace and hopeful when visiting with his wife, six kids, or grandchildren.

Now, due to Covid protocols, not only were none of us able to see him, there was a large yellow sign on his door warning people to enter at their own risk because he’d been potentially exposed. Even after a negative test, the sign remained; as did his loneliness, discouragement and sadness. Dad felt completely cutoff and isolated.

When this man’s family was quarantined from visiting him, these friends stepped in and remind us what it means to fully show up for those we love.

Knowing none of us could visit, we asked some of his friends if they might go lift his spirits and advocate for him with the staff. Matt, Dick, Greg, John, Katie, Gary, Tim, Bridget, Jane, Fred, Mary, Paul, Debbie, and Russ all went by to visit with and encourage Dad on that first weekend. It was a humbling outpouring of love for our Dad.

Unable to leave his room, unable to visit with his family, unable to communicate effectively due to his disease, in constant pain, dealing with his recovery and deeply worried about his wife, these friends, their visits, and the love they shared made a mighty difference for Dad. And us.

Perhaps most meaningful to me was a visitor named Harold.

Twenty years ago I hired Harold to help me renovate houses. What began as a typical contractor relationship, grew to mutual respect, then admiration, then friendship and then love.

I love Harold.

He sees the world through a very different lens than I do. Because of that, he has taught me as much about life, empathy, difference, unity, generosity and loyalty as anyone I know.

The evening we learned none of us could visit Dad, I called Harold to see if he might swing by and visit Dad. His gruff but caring response was, “Why didn’t you let me know sooner?”

He came to the Skilled Nursing Facility the following day at 7am with a dozen donuts for Dad.  Harold came out the following morning, too. When I heard he was back for a third day in a row, I called and asked why he was doing all this for Dad?

This is what family does in the wake of a storm.

Harold seemed surprised I asked the question, and answered, “John, that’s what family does.”

My friends, we live in a world that seems to focus on our differences. Our media and politicians benefit by promoting, magnifying and dividing us based on those differences. How do they vote? Where do they live? What color is their skin? Are they on our side?

What Harold has been teaching me for 20 years is that the very things that seem to make us different, are in fact the attributes that make us stronger.

What he revealed to me again last weekend is that, when everything begins to fall apart around us, the people who stand by us without flinching, well, those are our family. And I’m grateful to have Harold as part of mine.

In these divided days, let’s remember that in spite of some differences, we are in fact far better together. Although we often focus on  what physical gifts we possess and financial resources we can invest, what’s important is our willingness to be generous with our time, thoughtful in our words, and courageous enough to fully show up for others.

After all, that’s what family does.

12 replies on “That’s What Family Does”

Once again, it seems God has used your beautiful family to demonstrate His ability to bring goodness and love out of bad situations.

Lovely message, John. I am praying for your father, mother, and entire family.

“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.” (1 John 4:7)

John, I am so sorry. Can’t imagine the pain Denny was going through being separated from all of his family. Susan suffered physically but so much more mentally, worried about her babies and her precious Denny! Prayers and love to my friends the O’Learys💖.

Thank you for sharing your family issue. It puts things in prospective. I am sending positive thoughts and well wishes to all your family members.

Last week and this week’s message affirms what grace is. I watch this beautiful O’Leary family surrounded with it as they constantly live in hope and their actions are an expression of faith. Your family’s journey gives our family strength and HOPE! Thank you for sharing!

Beautiful story, John! Praying that your family is on the mend. Thank you for reminding us in so many ways just what is most important in life. Blessings!

This is so true for where we are at as a society. I made me recall how our dear friend Charlie was diagnosed with late stage cancer in his bones. When we all found out that he had cancer and was bed ridden as they could not get it all and the caner was spreading fast we all went into action. My husband and I made an appointment to visit with Charlie his sweet wife one evening and were able to stay for three hours. Charlie was a verteran, 87 years young and loved all things sports related. We all met from being local hockey season ticket holders for the Idaho Steelheads. During our visit we found that Diane, his sweet wife, found herself as the caregiver and unable to give all that he needed. I offered to help by staying with her at night so she could rest and I could change his diaper if needed as she was physically unable to give that service to him. I asked Charlie if he minded if I saw his bum, we all laughed and he agreed to having me stay. Fortunatley, family was there from out of the area to assist each and every day and night…I never got the call. The next call was that Charlie, who was completely ready, had passed in the night at home surrounded by his blood family.
You are right, those that you love and are a part of your life are family. When you find those that will step up during the most difficult and emotional times, those are the keepers. Much love to you and your family.

I’ve said for years that friends are family we get to choose for ourselves. Our two children are adopted; many of the people who’ve shown up for us over and over through the years are not “blood”. The people I love most in this world, my FAMILY, are not all “related” to me. But they are most definitely my family and I am blessed.

Thanks for today’s blog! Praying for you and your family. Glad your mom is feeling better. I never thought of myself as racist in any way or form but I did think of people not like me as different and maybe, just maybe treated them differently (not intentional) but different. As I reflect on my life (I’m 56) I’ve come to really realize that we are all just people from different backgrounds, experiences, etc… who just deserve to be treated with dignity and cordiality. I’m not happy with those out there trying to divide us by claiming our differences. We are one people created by God to glorify Him. (Period) Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Amazing story – thanks so much for sharing this John! As I start out my day and a new week – I needed to hear these lessons you shared. You leave some powerful lessons to not only lean on, but also to inspire!! Harold is special – thanks for sharing that part of your story for sure! 👏😊❤️ I’ll be thinking about & praying for you & your entire family.

John, I am including your dad and family in my prayers today. Thank you for sharing this beautiful story. Keep sharing the light and love!

PS: I’m already on the email list, please… whoever reads this, don’t subscribe me a second time. 😉

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