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The God Squad: A test of sisterly love

January 25, 2013|By Rabbi Marc Gellman

Q: I am Catholic, but my sister became a born-again fundamentalist Christian 11 years ago when she and her husband moved to Arizona. Soon thereafter, our father developed Alzheimer's disease, and since I lived nearby, the burden of taking care of my parents fell on my husband and me. Dad died in my arms.

During the last seven years of our father's life, my sister only came to visit him once. Actually, she was passing through Long Island at the time while helping her mother-in-law move to Florida. She stayed with him for a few hours and cried the whole time. Sadly, I don't think Dad remembered who she was. I have to say, she did call once a month to ask how things were going and offer moral support.

In all this time, I never asked my sister or brother-in-law for any physical help with our parents. I took it all on myself, but eventually I could no longer care for Mother due to problems with our son. I called my sister and asked her if she could pick up Mother and take her back to Arizona with her. She asked me, "Do you believe in God? Because if you do, he'll help you get through this."

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I lost it. I wasn't asking for help for myself, but for my son! I couldn't believe she blew me off and threw God in my face. I've been so hurt by this I've been unable to even talk to my sister. How do I approach her and speak to her on her religious plane? — D., Long Island, NY, via godsquadquestion@aol.com

A: I don't believe in your sister, but I do believe in what she said to you. I believe that God does help us to live through and ultimately overcome the burdens of life. I believe God does this through prayer, whereby we can come to realize that every day, even on our worst days, our blessings exceed our burdens.

I believe that God helps us by softening our judgmental hearts and urging us to forgive others so that we might also be forgiven. I don't believe from what you say that your sister did enough to help your parents — and to help you help them. However, she may have done all she was able to do with a smaller heart and a less generous spirit than the heart and spirit God placed within you. That is her spiritual problem, not yours.

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