It's the time of year that we spend (spent) with our families - we meaning not me, but people in general. Some families have "interesting" dynamics which might make spending time with them something that is really fun... or not. We, as Christians, or other religions, are also children of God and part of the family of God (there is better wording for this, but hopefully anyone who reads this gets the idea). Thinking of both of these concepts of family (family as people related to us / extensions of that, and the family of God), I was thinking recently of my godparents, 4 of them, some still on earth, others who have moved beyond life on earth.
Many times I think babies are baptized, people are named as godparents, and life goes on. I think I thought that until recently. Godparents recite specific responsibilities, in words, on the day of a baptism. Everyone is happy (except sometimes the babies!). Everyone goes home. Yay. Done. Check that off the to do list. But many godparents go beyond that, and the roles they play, when they choose to do so, can be much larger than specific recited words. When I think of my life, my godparents, though not directly involved in my faith for the most part, were (and are) a big part of my life.
I have 2 sets of godparents. One set knew my mom through her university (initially) while the other knew my dad through his university (initially), or that's what I know, and it may be a bit different. The set, or couple, through my mom, remembered to send me, every year for my birthday, a charm to add to a charm bracelet they had given me. I couldn't wait to see what the next charm would be. Their daughter was also named Beth, and to this day we debate which one of us is Beth #1 versus Beth #2 (She's Beth #1 because she is older, but she claims we are equal. I'm fine with #2 and think we can still be equal).
The other couple had/has 2 kids (now adults), close in age to the 3 of us in my family. Our 2 families have always been close. We spent every Thanksgiving and Christmas together growing up. I played soccer and ran track with their daughter. She lives in Germany but we get together when she is here (which is unexpectedly now, but we will get to see each other). Every Thanksgiving and Christmas we would plot a get-away-from-parents strategy. But first, lots of appetizers! Then, dinner... the shorter the better, with lots of food! During dinner we would start to exchange glances - who was going to make the first move? There was a movie and games elsewhere, away from this formal talking of dull grown-ups! One kid would ask to be excused and we would all watch to see if it meant it was time. And soon, we were off! Games, movies, ..., did we have to leave? Well, we knew we would see each other soon. Those were the really great times.
Both couples have always been there for me during the good times and the bad - graduations, MS diagnosis, life with MS, sports, music, and the list goes on. We only went to church together on the Sunday when I was confirmed (I could be wrong about that), but they influenced my life by the examples they set. One continued to send Lori cards in the mail after she (my godmother) had a stroke; she had her stroke as I started Ampyra, so would watch my progress and compare it to hers. In a sense we were on journeys together - improving. But then the journeys diverged and for a bit, I struggled. I knew she would want me to keep going, to keep getting better. But I didn't know the journeys would diverge like that, and so there was a strange point when I felt a feeling of being alone, even while knowing she wouldn't want this. I was stuck. Gradually I moved on and continued my journey, subconsciously recognizing that 2 journeys cannot remain in parallel forever, and knowing she wants the best for me.
Another godparent was there when Lori was born. My main nurse would tell me how it was impossible to keep my mom, my godmother, and my mother-in-law in the official waiting room because they were so excited. On the day Lori was born, 2.5 weeks early, this godmother who came to the hospital was really supposed to be coming with my mom, to my house, to set up the baby room. Plans change when babies come! She smiled and was so happy for us all, and I was so happy she could be there. As an adult I think I saw her more than as a child. She visited me when I lived in Minnesota and was so happy to take the elevator with me, instead of the escalator, because she said she had always hated escalators and didn't feel comfortable using them.
And so family is inclusive of my godparents. They taught me faith sometimes in the traditional way, but more often by just being there, by just being them. What has been very difficult is a certain, sudden "role" switch - instead of being the one to follow, I am leading my life and they are in the background. This realization of role-switching has come at unexpected, and always unwelcome times, feeling like punches in the stomach.
Sometimes we must say goodbye, always before we are ready, for some reason never feeling right, feeling like it wasn't supposed to happen, even though that makes no sense. It is difficult to tell people - oh, it's godparents - for many godparents didn't have such a large role - for many, they weren't family. But for me, they always were and are. I continue, wondering if I can be at all as incredibly wonderful as they have been.
And as this happens, I continue to search for what I think they wanted for me...