01 Nov Living without Regrets
November 1, 2011
From the Desk of Carol Soelberg:
I am FIRST a wife and mother, a sister, daughter, aunt, and a Grandma! In these relationships the critical value of the family in a healthy society comes to greatest recognition. These relationships provide the fire behind my vigilant role as protector of family issues while serving as President of United Families International.
Sometimes in our protective role we at UFI get so caught up in trying to solve the problems in the world that surround us all, that we forget to provide the “good news” of families that is all around us as well. We forget that words of inspiration are important and empowering tools that must also be used as we go out and wage the battles.
For our readers today, we are pleased to share Tom’s message of gratitude and hope. May it remind us all that the relationships in our families are of utmost importance and are truly worth fighting for at all levels. May it inspire us to be more committed to our families and buoy us up as we continue this most important battle of securing a future for the family.
President, United Families International
Living Without Regrets
The death of a loved one stirs deep reflection. My wife’s parents passed away after being married for half a century. Three weeks after concluding funeral services for the mother who died in heart surgery; the family prepared services for the father who succumbed to complications of cancer. These were sobering but surprisingly joyous occasions as the family celebrated lives well lived.
As attested by long lines of well wishers who attended each viewing, these two had numerous friends and accomplishments. But their friendships, adventures, and worldly successes are soon forgotten. The legacy that lives on is their remarkable family: five children all happily married, none divorced, all well educated and gainfully employed, each producing promising grandchildren and great grandchildren.
The secret to a stable culture is strong families building other strong families. Unlike work, entertainment, or other pursuits; no one looks back with regrets upon the time, energy and resources devoted to building a united family. No one, especially the government, can fill the place of a loving spouse or parent.
Marriage satisfies an innate craving to care for and belong to someone. When my wife and I were married, the official performing the ceremony challenged us to yoke ourselves like a well-matched team of oxen, pulling our load together with “one tongue between us.” I don’t know about the one tongue bit; but every day for 29 years, my wife has sidled up next to me, shouldered her substantial burdens, and pulled for me and our children. I can’t imagine life without her.
Next to my own marriage, the greatest thrills of my life are the arrivals of a son or daughter. We have been blessed fifteen times, which turns to thirty as they marry. A parent’s capacity to love is limitless. It expands with each arrival or adoption. After all of these children, no word is as sweet to me as “dad.”
The Bucket List
I like the message of the 2007 Rob Reiner film, “The Bucket List,” starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. For some reason, this film is hated by critics but loved by audiences.
The main plot follows two terminally ill men on their ultimate vacation with a wish list of things to do before they “kick the bucket.” Blue-collar mechanic, amateur historian, and family man Carter (Freeman) and single, billionaire, four-time divorced Edward (Nicholson) meet for the first time in Edward’s hospital where they share a room. Both are diagnosed with lung cancer.
After release from the hospital, the two unlikely friends begin a hilarious around-the-world adventure financed by Edward to do the things on their joint bucket list. They go skydiving, climb the Pyramids, race Shelby Mustangs, fly over the North Pole, eat dinner at Chevre d’Or in France, visit the Taj Mahal, ride motorcycles on the Great Wall of China, and attend a lion safari in Africa.
The trip abruptly ends in Hong Kong after Edward secretly hires an attractive female to entertain Carter. Carter, after refusing the woman’s sexual advances, realizes how much he loves and misses his wife and asks Edward to take him home. On the way home, Carter speaks to Edward about reuniting with his estranged daughter. Edward becomes angry and offended, drops off Carter, and storms home. In a memorable scene, Carter is seen from a window outside his modest home enjoying a nice family dinner, telling stories and sharing jokes with his family while a frustrated Edward is seen inside his mansion eating frozen dinners alone. Carter’s family reunion is literally short-lived. He dies in surgery, but manages first to send Edward a letter:
...Our lives are streams flowing into the same river towards whatever heaven lies in the mist beyond the falls. Find the joy in your life, Edward. My dear friend, close your eyes and let the waters take you home.
Edward finally pays a formal visit to his daughter. She not only embraces him and accepts him back into her life but also introduces him to the pretty granddaughter he never knew he had. After greeting the little girl with a kiss on her cheek, Edward crosses “kiss the most beautiful girl in the world” off the list.
Message of Hope
To those who know the supernal joy and companionship of a beloved spouse; count your blessings and hold on to your family. Do not allow selfish interests and worldly distractions separate you from those you love and who love you the most.
To young adults with most of your lives in front of you, resolve to live a moral, principled life worthy of an excellent companion and children. Hopefully you will find that special mate; but if you don’t, you will still be blessed if you live a worthy and productive life and be the best son or daughter, brother or sister, aunt or uncle you can be. If you come from a broken home, learn from and do not repeat the mistakes of your parents. You may not realize it now, but these are the most important decisions of your life. Make good choices now so you will not look back in later years with regret.
To those whose sacred relationships have been shattered by selfishness, vain ambitions or attractions, do not despair. Pick up the pieces and come home. Although one cannot turn back the clock, it is never too late to change, forgive, reconcile or love again.
Tom Christensen, former CEO of United Families, is a successful father, attorney, and politician. He has written extensively on the natural family and has addressed UN delegations in behalf of UFI in Istanbul, New York, Nairobi, the Hague, Lisbon and Geneva.