Tuesday 31 August 2010

Part 2: Postcard from the heart

As you may know, I have four younger brothers.  David, with whom we went on holiday last week, is the second line to the Aherne dynasty!

It is ironic, but David and I never really got on after we hit the respective ages of 4 and 2 years.  It was only when we reached our twenties and thirties that we began to have more interest in each other.  And it is only in the past few years that our bond has really developed and grown. 

I haven't been on holidays with my family in years, but going on holiday with David and his wife was effortless.  How often can we say that about family?  That being with them was effortless?

But what really touched me, as I got to know my younger brother all over again, was his deep sensitivity.  I had intellectually 'understood' that David was the most emotionally sensitive child in our family, but to actually experience his sensitivity was a real gift.

He impressed me over and over again.  His consideration about when I might need toilet breaks, his thoughtfulness to his wife (he used to make her hot chocolate for breakfast, just because he knew it pleased her), his warmth towards Dirk (he showed him my brothers' "secret handshake"), and his willingness to clean, wash, and dry up, even if he had done it for every single meal since we arrived, spoke of someone with an immense heart and deep good will.

I was so proud of him, watching him in action.  And, as I thought back over the years, I wondered what it was that had reignited our connection.  I think it could best be described as unconditional love.   Yet how often do we get caught up in how our family members should behave, should think, should act and, in the process, lose the gifts that they have to share?

David may not always have agreed with my decisions or beliefs, but he has always supported me as a person.  As I'm the only family member outside Ireland, he's made a point of calling me periodically, just to check in on me and see how I am.  Regardless of whatever happens, I know I could call on him (or any of my other brothers), confident in the knowledge that they would stand by me.  

That must surely be the greatest gift one human being can give another: unconditional love.  And to receive it from our family, where often it can feel most absent, must surely be the greatest blessing there is.

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