My husband (dying from cancer at 46) and I have hosted Christmas dinner for 23 years, for both our families, close friends, and his best friend who’s our Minister.
We sing hymns, carols, and Christmas songs. Our Minister leads us in Prayer and offers us Communion. We also play games, joke, and laugh. Many guests stay for several days.
My older brother and his wife who are atheists don’t attend, which we respect. They join us from Boxing Day.
But this year, my brother said they’d attend Christmas dinner. He wanted to be with my husband for his foreseeable last Christmas.
They declined to attend any services (which I’d expected.)
Christmas morning all the children tore threw their gifts with laughter and joy. But my brother and sister-in-law’s anti-Christian beliefs emerged, and hymns and carols were mocked.
At dinner, when we bowed our heads to Pray Grace, my brother loudly said, “this is stupid, for the uneducated.” I was embarrassed, my husband horrified, my parents hurt, my in-laws angry.
After dinner I asked them to leave, which they did.
I don’t know how to go forward. My eldest brother was the angriest, most hurt and outraged.
My husband, however, says that my brother and his family showed up, and that meant more to him than anything else. He wants my brother as a pallbearer if I’m okay with it.
He has no siblings, and we’re also very close with my brother’s daughter.
I want to be as forgiving as him. But I’m angry.
Do I tell my brothers that my husband loves them both and appreciates their points of view? How do I forgive the person I never want to see again?
Your brother and his wife were purposefully rude and obnoxious, offending everyone. This wasn’t new from the one sibling who’s long defied everything the rest of his family believes.
However, your husband’s forgiveness as he faces the end of his life, is the overriding decision.
He’s sending you all a strong message – that forgiveness is as much a part of Christianity as praying together. The fact that it’s often difficult to muster is what connects forgiveness to your faith.
He believes you can do this: Accept your brother and sister-in-law and stay close to their daughter as you have in the past.
Just don’t discuss religion together or include him in your Christian celebrations.
FEEDBACK Regarding the couple who constantly fight over whether the bride will take the groom’s last name (Dec. 29):
Reader #1 – “I, too, was engaged to a fantastic guy who was not happy about my decision not to change my name to his.
“What we came to realize was that our name-change disagreement was a symptom of profoundly different ideas about gender roles in general, and especially gender roles in marriage.
“We ultimately broke up, and I've now been married for over 15 years to someone whose ideas of male and female roles in marriage are far more fluid and far more compatible with my own – and who, no surprise, had no issue at all with my preference for keeping my own name.
“From what I've heard, my ex-fiancé is happily married to someone who is more compatible with him.
I bear him no ill will – I still think of him as a great guy, just not a great guy for me! – but I'm so glad that this issue helped guide us to some difficult discussions about what we each wanted from marriage.”
Reader's Commentary Regarding a woman whose husband had cheated (Dec. 1):
Reader – “The woman felt that the marriage counsellor they saw took her husband's side. Your response included your belief that "it’s rare for professional, trained and experienced counsellors to take sides."
“Of the three marriage counsellors my husband and I saw, I felt that two had taken his side. The one who didn’t was fair and objective, and my husband didn’t want to see him any longer.
“My husband is very manipulative. He had two counsellors believing I was the bad one. One of them supported my husband in his shortcomings and told me I was “bad” (I feel he had chauvinist ideals).
“My point: It’s hard to find a good, fair, and objective counsellor. They suffer from the human condition as well and a very good manipulator can confuse them.”
Ellie – Finding a counselor you both trust is essential.
Tip of the day:
The toughest decisions are often the most important for moving forward in a family relationship.