Welcome to Spiritual Journey Thursday. On the first Thursday of each month we gather to share our insights. This month our focus is on virtues.
As some of you know, I am #9 in a family of 10. Being one of the younger members, I have witnessed the death of a number of my siblings. This past month our number dwindled again, from six to five. Today I'd like to tell you about some virtues I noticed in the life of my oldest brother, Emil.
Emil was a minister by calling, with special training in family systems and addiction issues. He was an avid fisherman, carver, cross country skier, poet, and story writer. His way was not easy. He had health issues for much of his life, and he had lost two sons and his wife.
Emil was almost 20 when I came along, so he was chosen as one of my baptismal sponsors. He carved this little chickadee for me. Later, he wrote about seeing a chickadee at his window in the deep winter, and how it brought him hope.
“Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all -
- Emily Dickinson
Emil always had a faithful outlook on life. He considered himself a peacemaker... a bridge builder... and when our family gathered he would ask that we put our differences behind us and enjoy being together. He provided leadership and courage, and our gatherings benefitted.
I was amazed at Emil's endurance. I spoke with him a number of times while the senior residence was in total lockdown. He was completely isolated, unable to have any visitors, meals alone in his room. It was difficult for him, but didn't waste his time complaining. Instead, he found meaning in writing his memories and sharing them, reading, and contemplating life.
Emil was generous. For a number of years he invited family to his home in Wisconsin for a winter weekend ski-in. My gang attended just once, but the time we had together was wonderful.
Emil and Judy, his wife, spent several weeks caring for my oldest sister, Margaret, when she was ill with cancer and her husband needed knee surgery. They cooked and cleaned and helped every way they could. What a labor of love!
I hardly remember a conversation with Emil that did not include a good laugh. He had a sense of humor and often saw humor that I would have missed, had he not pointed it out.
Siblings see each other's weaknesses as well as strengths. We know the warts and foibles as well as glory and beauty. Yes, we had times of discord and impatience. That's only human. Through it all, we learned to love each other. Relationships take work, but it is good work, and work that I believe we are called to. A good model helps along the way, and I thank God for Emil and the good he upheld.
It is a great blessing when we can find virtue in others and have good models to follow. I hope you have good models in your life, and I wish you sweet and meaningful journeys.
8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
PS: Please post your links in the comment section. I'll do my best to round them up, but we have severe weather here now, so in case I can't get online you can follow each other via comments.