It amazes me how our subconscious mind can be aware of things that our conscience mind hasn’t realized. This can happen to me when an anniversary of a major life event is coming up and I start feeling the feelings before my conscience mind is aware of where they are coming from.
On August 5, 2016, my sister Pat Gateff succumbed to Parkinson’s disease after a long battle with the disease. Parkinson’s Disease is a disorder of the central nervous system that affects movement and sometimes leads to dementia.
For as long as I can remember Pat and I were close. She was older than me and my relationship to her many times was more maternal than that of a sibling. One of my first memories, and one that remains clear to this day, is of Pat taking me to register for my first day of kindergarten as my mother was ill and in the hospital. As I grew older our relationship evolved into more of a sibling relationship, although Pat always had the role like a mentor or teacher. On the anniversary of her death I found myself thinking about some the most important lessons Pat imparted to me through the way she lived her life.
1. Compassion- When I was younger my family had several elderly single aunts that were reaching the age of requiring special care. Pat would consistently spend many hours per week providing for our Aunts. I was young at the time and I would think to myself, why does Pat do this? Did my father make her do it? Was she being paid? I now know that she was being paid, although not in the sense I was thinking. The lesson learned, and one of the greatest life has to offer, is the benefit we receive by helping others. Delaying your own needs, and helping others who are less fortunate, can offer the greatest riches life has to offer.
2. Forgiveness- Pat, because of the trust my father had in her, was the executor of my father’s estate. As my father’s death became imminent, and her responsibilities became overwhelming, she asked me for help with some tasks. Although I was capable of doing what I was asked, my ego took over in the form of control and I began to over step my bounds. I wasn’t being helpful. Pat became very frustrated with me and gave me a stern “talking to”! Pat spoke to me in tone and in words in a way she had never spoken to me before. I remember very well thinking, “well I’ll never speak to her again”! It took a while but I did come to the realization that I was at fault and that I need to ask for forgiveness. Again, to find the courage to say I’m sorry did not come quickly. Finally, I was ready to make my amends. It was amazing to me to witness firsthand what true forgiveness is and how it feels. When I finished stumbling through the words of my apology her words and expression let me know I was forgiven, and had been forgiven before I ever started. As time went on my mistake was never mentioned again by Pat, as if it had never happened. Pat was able to forgive and forget!
3. Unconditional Love- Virtually any way I acted or spoke Pat treated me the same, with respect and love. Watching Pat in her relations with her husband and children gave me a better understanding and appreciation as to what love looks like.
I try to carry all these characteristic into my own relationships. I believe once in your lifetime you are given the person that will have the most profound impact on your life. Mine was my sister Pat, I will always be grateful for my relationship with her and sad that I lost her too soon.