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Examiner
  • Bob Buckley: The time to mend your family is now

  • Two weeks ago, I wrote about my client who died unexpectedly leaving behind his 92-year-old father, a World War II veteran who had fought in the Battle of the Bulge. As I reflect on the events surrounding this family, there is another story yet to be told that hopefully has a lesson for us all.

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  • Two weeks ago, I wrote about my client who died unexpectedly leaving behind his 92-year-old father, a World War II veteran who had fought in the Battle of the Bulge. As I reflect on the events surrounding this family, there is another story yet to be told that hopefully has a lesson for us all.
    I wrote about one of my clients, a 56-year-old man who died of a stroke, likely caused by a head injury he received in a motorcycle wreck in 2006. I devoted much of my column to his father, who has a special place in my heart because of his courageous service to his country. I did not tell you about my client’s daughters, but this is a story worth telling.
    When I went to the nursing home to visit my client’s father, who had broken his hip after finding his son unresponsive in their basement, I also met his two daughters. One is 24 years old and the other is 19. Both were very upset and had come to the nursing home to grieve with their grandpa. To say that they were distraught would be a gross understatement. One of the girls was barely consolable for reasons you will come to understand.
    I was aware that my client had two daughters. One was born of his only marriage, which ended in divorce, and the second one came five years later. The details are now unimportant. What I do know is that the oldest daughter had a very strained relationship with her father and the younger one saw her father for the first time at the funeral home after his death. There are images in one’s mind that are forever branded because of life experiences. The one of this young lady looking at the lifeless body of her father for the first time is one brand I would like to remove.
    I also learned that the two sisters met two months ago. The younger one met her grandfather for the first time at the nursing home. The older sister had a solid relationship with grandpa at one time as she used to spend the summers at her grandparents’ farm when she was a young girl. Yet, something happened that strained the relationship of the father and his daughter so that they rarely spoke. The strain with her father also affected her relationship with her grandfather.
    Thus, as I talked with the family that day, I was confronted by a very emotional young lady who desperately wanted to know a father and grandfather she had never met and the only family member who could console her was a sister she barely knew who had her own heart ripped to shreds and deeply scarred by her own limited relationship. I could not find the words to console these two young ladies.
    Page 2 of 2 - The next day, the older one called me. I was on my way to Tulsa for a wedding, but she told our receptionist that she really needed to talk to me so I called her back. She was obviously distraught so I did my best to comfort her. I encouraged her to go to her grandfather and start catching up on all of the love they had missed, and to be there as a source of support and comfort for him as he needed her as much as she needed him.
    As I reflect on this entire situation, it occurred to me that there is a lesson in this story for all of us. It reminds me of my own personal experience with the death of my grandfather. My grandfather was killed in 1966 when a dump truck ran into the ATA bus he was driving. I was not yet 13 at the time of his death and so I remember very little, but I do remember how distraught my uncle was on the day of the funeral. I can only speculate about the reasons for his emotional state but it left a deep impression on me. I suspect there was some unfinished business between my uncle and grandfather.  
    As I consider the emotions of these two young ladies, I can’t help but think that much of the anguish could have been avoided. Usually, the blame can be spread evenly, but the problem is in the blame. Pointing fingers is wasted energy. A college professor once told our class over 35 years ago that when you point your finger at someone three fingers are usually pointed back at yourself. If everyone would quit trying to find the speck of sawdust in their brother or sister’s eye and start searching for the plank in their own eyes, perhaps many broken relationships would not be so fractured.  Time is critical for unfinished business.
    Bear Bryant, the legendary Alabama football coach, was making a pitch for a long distance phone company around Mother’s Day. He was urging everyone to call their mothers. Knowing that his mother was gone, he concluded with the words: “I wish I could call mine.”  I know two girls who wish they could call their father. The point is that we all can probably make a call we have been resisting. If everyone would extend a little mercy and grace, perhaps the events that I encountered two weeks ago would have been avoided.
    So go knock on a door or call someone-now!
    Bob Buckley is an attorney in Independence. Email him at bbuckley@wagblaw.com  
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