Turning the pages

February 18, 2015 -- Living City

Turning the pages
The challenges of forgiving my sister as our family was falling apart

By M.P

The relationships in my family have never been easy. My parents’ relationship had always been a struggle, and though I get along well with my brother, I never established a close, warm relationship with my younger sister — we were just too different! She had her way of thinking, and I had mine, I was very focused on my goals in life while she seemed to live for the moment. The only thing we had in common was joining the church choir in our parish.

We live in a very Catholic country, and during college I spent a year in the U.S. Six months after I arrived there, I got the news from home that my mom had asked my dad for a divorce. Though they had continued living in the same house, they had separated. My mom even got a lawyer to file all the documents.

Even though they had often fought, they always taught us that their commitment was lasting and that we would hold together as a family. So this news was hard for me, and I asked them not finalize their plan before I went back home. Luckily, another couple helped them resolve their problems, and they decided to try once more.
Even so, when I got back home, the problem hadn’t stopped. And in the meantime, my sister had started going out with a young man who did not seem ready for a serious relationship; he told my sister he was breaking up the relationship with his fiancée, but it wasn’t true. I shared my concerns with my sister, but she only protested, saying, “You don’t know him, and you don’t know about the situation!” We didn’t talk about it anymore, and eventually I thought they had broken up, but they hadn’t.

A year later, while my sister was finishing college, they both applied for a job at the same company and they got it, so they were spending much more time together. My sister would get home late, but there wasn’t time to worry about it. I was studying in another city and was with my family only one or two weekends a month. Plus, we had other problems at home: my parents had started fighting again. My mom wanted us all to move out — she felt uncomfortable in our house for other reasons — but my dad wasn’t in favor of that.

Then, in December of that year, a mutual friend of my sister and mine told me that my sister was pregnant. That same young man was the father. At first, I did not believe it because sometimes that person was a joker, but when I understood it was real I was devastated! My sister hadn’t mentioned anything to me or my parents, and she had even continued to sing in the parish choir as if nothing had happened.

Two weeks later, she called me during the week to tell me the news. “I’m pregnant, and the father is the guy you know,” she said. I was relieved that she shared it with me. At first it seemed that the father was happy about the news, but then he told my sister that he was engaged to another girl and was not going to break it off.
I told her that she and her friend should tell our parents immediately, but on the day they decided to do it, the guy didn’t show up. So she shared the news with my parents and me on her own. My mom immediately said, “Don’t do anything stupid, keep the baby! We’ll have the baby!”
My father agreed, but somehow the problems between my parents grew bigger after that. On top of that, we live in a small town, where getting pregnant outside of marriage is still a big issue. People started talking, and they would look at me too, thinking: “That’s the sister. Who knows what she’s doing. She lives in the capital during the week.” Plus, the father of the baby just disappeared and said that it was my sister’s problem.

It was so hard for me to accept what my sister did! I was so disappointed, because I felt that my sister did this just because she wanted to, without thinking of the consequences for all of us. In that moment, I wasn’t able to forgive her. And I didn’t want to go home anymore, because everybody was staring at us at church.

One thing that helped me was when I went to confession and the priest told me that God has a plan for everyone, and that he never gives us more than we can bear. So I thought, if God allows this to happen to my family, then we can handle it. That helped me a lot, especially when on top of all this, my mom asked for a divorce again.
My sister had a hard pregnancy and risked losing the baby. So the day my nephew was born, there was joy about the beautiful, healthy baby boy. And it happened in the midst of a lot of pain: my parents separated that day, my father moved out of the house, and the baby’s father didn’t show up.

My mom was happy about the baby. She’d already forgiven my sister, saying, “She’s not the first and not the last.”
But I couldn’t really celebrate. I just couldn’t cope with the grudge against my sister — why didn’t she think of the consequences? Why did she hurt all of us? I wanted to tell her, “We helped you. We cut back all our expenses to help you with your medical bills …”

I also couldn’t forgive myself for not being able to do more, that I didn’t try to convince my sister that this guy wasn’t good for her, and that she shouldn’t have stayed with him.
I still had this grudge inside when my nephew’s father showed up as if nothing happened, after he was already married in church with the girl he was supposed to break up with before. I was so mad that I told him, “You did that also to me, to our whole family. God is the only one that has to forgive you.”

During that time, I felt sadness and anger inside, and I missed my dad when I came home for weekends. I felt that I had to take a step. I could not cope any longer with the grudge and the feeling that I failed to help my sister avoid that experience.

Looking into my nephew’s eyes, I realized that he was a gift from God! And then I felt that he would never have his father around as I did, even if it was not always easy at home. I had to let go — I discovered that I couldn’t change what happened, but I wanted to love my little nephew and give him all the love that he wouldn’t receive from his father.

I left all my hurt behind and started over with my sister, because I had to forgive her with all my heart. This step helped us to become much closer, something I could have never imagined before. She changed so much and was now a responsible mom who cares for her little boy and works hard for his future. We found that we had more in common than we thought, and I discovered her anew.

Could God have wanted it this way? My nephew has brought my whole family together. For example, my sister’s situation made my parents think about what really matters. My mom made up her mind to give my dad another opportunity, and it was a chance for them to renew their own marriage commitment. I understood that I couldn’t continue making my sister feel guilty.

And when my nephew’s father and his family came over after Christmas with some gifts, I was able to forgive him too. As much as I wanted him to disappear, I knew that my nephew would need him as he grew up.
We turned the page. And I felt free.