I believe love is everyone’s birthright. Each child deserves to be born into a family that cherishes them just as they are and gives them safe space to grow into the people they were born to be. But even though I believe children should grow up in an environment of love and acceptance, my experience as a daughter couldn’t have been more different. Through the practice of forgiveness and gratitude and with the great blessing of finding a kind, loving husband, my experience as a wife and mother helped me break a painful family cycle.

I grew up in a judgmental household. My father’s overbearing control and disapproval set the tone for our family life. He was often critical and insulting in front of us kids and sometimes our family’s guests. My father was not a happy man, maybe because he did not have a good childhood or because of his life choices. He may have been disappointed with how his life had turned out. I will never know for sure.

Growing up, this was the life I knew. It wasn’t until I started dating the man I would later marry that I began to glean family life could be warm and accepting.

I had been aware of Jack for years before we got together. A neighborhood fixture and friend of my brother, he had always seemed like a genuinely nice guy. After having not seen him for years, we ran into each other again. He was as I had remembered him. As we talked, I realized he had the qualities I was looking for in a partner.

A Deepening Relationship

We started dating and our relationship deepened. When we told our families we were in love, their reactions were miles apart. Predictably, my father was disapproving. “Jack? He’s a farmer, and he’s divorced!” Other members of my family didn’t react as strongly but shared my father’s dim view of my relationship. Jack’s family, on the other hand, was simply delighted. His parents welcomed our news. “Wow! What took you so long? We know you’ll have a happy life together.”

That was the moment I joined Jack’s family. Their acceptance and love nurtured me and felt like rain on parched soil. After years of tolerating my father’s criticisms and angry outbursts, I was grateful for feeling such belonging with my new family. It gave me a stronger experience of myself as someone deserving of love and respect and stood me in much better stead to be the kind of mother my future children would deserve.

Choosing Love

Through it all, Jack was my rock. He even attempted to forge a healthier relationship with my father after several episodes of anger and cruel words. Jack put his foot down and told my father he wouldn’t tolerate that kind of behavior. Jack even invited him out for a meal to talk calmly and figure out a way forward. My father declined and presented me with an ultimatum: I had to choose between my husband and my family. It was an easy decision. I chose love.

To move on emotionally, I knew I had to forgive my family. If I didn’t, I would remain bound to them and to the harsh memories of constant criticism and anger. Forgiveness prepared me for what was to come. Years after our last contact, my father died suddenly. Shortly afterward, I learned he had disinherited me. If it had happened at an earlier point in my life, I might have felt hurt or angry. Instead, I felt liberated. Jack agreed. When we read the will, he said, “Now you are free! Let’s go out to dinner and celebrate freedom.” We drove to a restaurant in the rain. When we stepped out of the car, the rain stopped, the sun shone, and we even spotted a rainbow. It felt like a benediction that all we had endured led us to this place of love and peace.

Jack and I raised our son and daughter in an unconditionally loving home. As they were growing up, their voices were heard and valued. When we had disagreements, we calmly talked through them. None of this happened by accident, and although I feel blessed, I don’t think it was luck. Our children put it best when they toasted us at our 30-year anniversary celebration: “You have led by example, and the enthusiasm you bring to life and your love is a model to live by. You have shown us what a courageous and committed love can be.”

I’ve learned through these experiences—bad and good—that when we draw our last breaths, it’s how much we love and were loved in return that really matters.

About the Author

Mary A. Summerfield works in the healthcare field. She enjoys gardening, writing, cooking, and volunteering. She has been a Daily Word® reader for more than 30 years. Mary lives in southeastern Pennsylvania.


No Results