Home Education Magazine
November-December 2001 - Articles and Columns
Publisher's Note - Helen Hegener
Live Your Lives and Hug Your Children
"Hug your children." What a simple statement. "Live your lives and hug your children." As I listened to the President address those words to a stricken nation on September 20th, I silently added: "Better hug your parents, too."
The morning after the terrorist hijackings my father suffered a massive stroke, leaving him partially paralyzed and throwing our entire family into a painful, confusing, recurring nightmare which isn't letting up even as I write these words two weeks later. This morning Dad was returned to the Intensive Care Unit with various complications attributed to a heart attack; I'm writing this from the family waiting room where I've spent another day with my mother, my sister and her husband, and my husband Mark. Our youngest sister flies in from Alaska tomorrow evening, and the rest of the family are making plans to join us as soon as possible.
Medical emergencies of this kind are devastating in even the best of times, but to have this happen in the midst of America's larger tragedy has made it all even more difficult to bear. I listen to the doctors tell us they're hopeful about Dad's situation - and then watch as the television in the waiting room describes thousands of families for whom there is no more hope. I say a small prayer of thanks for Dad's little improvements - and then I am overwhelmed as I try to grasp the incredible pain and suffering inflicted on so many.
Dad has been through medical emergencies before - but nothing quite like this. Likewise, our nation has been through national emergencies before - but nothing quite like this. My family - like my country - is reeling before the blow, trying to find peace and understanding but only finding confusion and dissonance. The medical staff here at the hospital keeps scaring us with words like "paralyzed" and "life-threatening," while the television and newspaper headlines keep scaring us with words like "bioterrorism" and "war." We feel confused and torn between worrying about Dad and worrying about the rest of the world.
"Hug your children." I wish I could right now, but they're at home, 200 miles away; and in Alaska, 2,500 miles away. I worry about them being scared as we send status reports about their beloved Grandpa; as the sabers rattle and our nation prepares to go to war. I wish we could sit beside our quiet pond and I'd talk with them about what it all means, answer their questions, soothe their fears. They're strong resilient children, and they live in a supportive larger community of family and friends - I'm thankful for that. But I miss them terribly. I miss the comfort of just being with them. I ask myself if what we taught them about life and death and facing hardships will be enough to see them through this.
I consider their other grandpa, Mark's father, who passed away four years ago. When the family photos come out now there are wonderful memories of when Grandpa Al took them out in his motorboat, when he bought them banana splits... It's hard to lose a loved one, but the memories built through the years are what really endure.
What can we teach our children that will help them through the difficult times in their lives? What has most helped me in this crisis are the basic things Mom and Dad taught me when I was little. They taught me that my family will always be there when I need them. They taught me to be forthright and honest, to take responsibility, to do the right thing whenever possible. They taught me that it's okay to ask for help when things seem too much to bear alone, and that it's okay to cry when you're feeling overwhelmed. They taught me that no matter what happens, even when you've done things you shouldn't, you'll still be loved and supported and helped through the hard times.
But even more importantly, they taught me to enjoy life, to see it all as one grand adventure after another, and to never be afraid of taking chances, changing things as I think they need changing. They taught me to seek understanding, to practice tolerance, and to hold my loved ones close.
I am who I am because of my parents, and my children and even my grandchildren are who they are because of them too; it filters down through the generations. Strong, confident, loving, a little irreverent but always respectful of that which deserves respect, willing to push the envelope, ready to try new things, but still delighted to take joy and comfort in family traditions.
What can we teach our children? We can teach them what our parents taught us: To love, to laugh, to support each other. To think beyond the box, to seek new answers to old questions, to boldly go... well, wherever life takes them. We can teach our children to build joyful memories for the future. And we can teach them to hug their parents.
(c) 2001 Helen Hegener
November-December 2001 - Articles and Columns
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