The two brothers could not look each other in the eye. The older one did most of the talking, but all the while stared across the law firm’s boardroom table, past the people sitting opposite him, and out the 27th floor window. It was as if he wanted to be somewhere far away, anywhere but in that room arguing about his father’s estate.
The younger brother, obviously the prodigal son who didn’t make it home to receive the “blessing” before his father died, constantly shifted in the expensive leather chair, played with the pen in his hand and looked down at the blank pad of paper in front of him. He was nervous and uncomfortable as he was underdressed for the occasion.
The siblings had different mothers, both divorced from their deceased father. Largely through the choices of others, they shared little in common except the blood of their father flowing through their veins. It was the estate of their father that brought them together, at least physically, into the same room. It was the same discussion that drove them apart, tearing scabs off old scars and creating new wounds. As harsh words were spoken by the lawyers representing each of the half-brothers, I wondered what their father would’ve thought had he been there. Unintentionally, he had made a bequest to them of bitterness. The boys, now emboldened and brash in the absence of their father, battled over money. It was all that was left.
I had seen the drama dozens of times, just with different players. Beneficiaries clinging to that which they felt entitled, even if it meant villainizing members of the family who remained. In this case, the brotherly brawl had been bubbling to a boil for some time, both boys trash talking each other through the one person that separated them, the referee, their father. With him gone, the half-brothers leaned into the long-anticipated fight fueled by anger and grief, loss and potential gain, feelings of guilt and entitlement. The father had left a legacy of broken relationships that money could not heal.
Despite the fact that Parkinson’s disease is not typically fatal, it does bring one face-to-face with one’s mortality. Perhaps it is because through PD one begins experiencing a sense of accelerated loss. What do we do with the nagging reminder that life is fragile and fleeting? I try to ignore it sometimes, like refusing to face the reality some mornings that I have to get out of bed. Those mornings I feel like hitting the “snooze” button, burrowing under my blankets, closing my eyes and pretending that the demands and conflicts of the day don’t exist. Hopelessly, I deny my reality.
When it is my turn to bid farewell to my friends and family, will it ignite a powder keg of discontent? Will my passing leave behind harmony or discord? What can I do now to promote peace? Reconciliation is a difficult journey to begin, let alone complete. In truth, it may be an ongoing, sometimes painful, process without a certain conclusion. It requires courage. Like grasping the nettle, one must be prepared to withstand its sting. To let it go is to suffer the bite but leave the weed to flourish. If we are to sow seeds of peace and reconciliation, we must be prepared and persistent.
How to start? Begin by asking the right questions, and answering them honestly. Whom have I wronged? Who has hurt me? Are there loved ones that I ache to see reconciled? How do I begin being an agent of amity? How can I convert conflict to concord?
From my experience and observations I have learned some things:
- 1. Embarking on a path of reconciliation demands humility. That may mean a sincere apology or an admission of inadequacy.
- 2. The speed with which relational repairs take place will be determined consensually. One’s own agenda and time frame cannot be imposed without imperiling the process.
- 3. One must be prepared to maintain consistency in commitments to restoring harmony in relationships. Be prepared to have your motives challenged.
- 4. Healing of past hurts may result in more pain. Tearing the scab from an old wound or a bandage from one hidden under it is likely to hurt...a lot.
The two brothers did not reconcile. Each called “justice” to their aid, but the sadness in their eyes told me it gave them no comfort to be “right”. Of course, the lawyers, trained for the battle, would fight on, continuing as they must to follow instructions and ultimately divide the spoils, remaining the only ultimate “victors”. In litigation, every party loses. It is only a matter of how much.