My younger brother and I fell out several years ago. I was really bothered by the way I felt he acted badly toward our parents and I decided to stop talking to him. I heard through the grapevine that he got ill a few weeks ago. I was thinking of calling but before I had a chance, he passed away. The family told me not to bother coming to the funeral. I am now really confused. Did I do the right thing by ignoring him? I feel nothing for him inside but should I have been there in his hour of need? Can you help me with my conscience?
You say you feel nothing for him inside and yet you speak of a conscience and are dealing with confused emotions about not being there for your brother. Obviously you do feel for him more than you care to admit – even to yourself.
There are always issues in life that cause tension between people. It then becomes a question of you we choose to deal with it. You can ignore the problem by ignoring the person and like a critical disease that you choose to ignore, that’s a recipe for disaster. Or you can bring the issue to the fore, tear it open, cut it out, and like any ailment, when operated on, however painful and sometimes long the recovery – ultimately you get better.
Many people don’t know this, but there were two brothers, Adi and Rudolf Dassler who started making sports shoes together in their mothers bathroom in the 1920s. During World War II they fell out, it is presumed on account of political differences and in 1948 they set up rival companies. One became known as Adidas (Adi Dassler) and the other Puma – two of the leading sportswear companies in the world today. Such was the level of acrimony that the whole Bavarian town of Herzogenaurach both companies are based was split between those who were employed and therefore loyal to one brother or the other. Only last year they made their peace for the first time, on that ultimate of all sacred peace-making grounds – a football pitch, directors of both companies shook hands and then played. Sixty years as a split community – and because of what – political differences?
Your brother was/is your flesh and blood. Bonds between loved ones have to transcend the stuff that gets in the way trying to pull us apart. And in regard to the rest of the world we have to live by the notion of Two Jews, Three Opinions, One Heart.
I am not going to make your conscience any easier. When you have a moment, go to your brother’s gravesite, pray there, connect to him on some level, ask him to forgive and tell him that you do too. I don’t know if it is too late to make peace with the rest of his family but you could certainly still make your peace with him in your own special way.