Ohana means family… no one left behind.
I think that's a line from Lilo and Stitch, or at least that's what my niece tells me.
But I never realized the importance of family until I walked away.
When I met the man I would marry, and then later divorce, I made sure he knew how important family was to me. My family has been my strongest support system my entire life, and throughout struggles and fights and hurt feelings… they've never left me behind.
But I left them behind.
4 months before we got married, I was given an ultimatum by the man I thought I loved. I was told that I had to move out of my family's house if I wanted to marry him. His reasoning was that I was too dependent on them, yet the real truth was that he feared them talking me out of marrying him… because they saw who he really was. I shouldn't have listened to him… but I did. I thought it would show him the amount of love I had for him. I thought it would show him that I would leave EVERYTHING behind for him, even my family. A week before Christmas I moved out of my parents house, tears streaming down my face. I had no where to go. I couldn't afford my own place and I couldn't move in with him. I left with a laundry basket of clothes and no real destination. I lost a huge part of myself the day I walked out the door, knowing it would never be the same.
But that was my idea of love.
3 days later I was told I would be moving in with his parents.
I couldn't make sense of how that translated to me showing him my independence but I quietly complied and didn't say a word.
I wanted to show him how much I loved him.
That Christmas would be the last time I would see my family for 1.5 years.
I was not allowed to invite them to our wedding.
I was not allowed to call them.
I was forbade communication of any form.
I was told they didn't support us and the love we had for each other.
I was told they only wanted to ruin our marriage.
I was told that they were not true Christians because no Christian would try and break up a marriage.
I was told that I was brought up too close to my family and that it wasn't natural.
I was told lie upon lie. And I listened. I complied. And I ignorantly lost out on 1.5 years of memories that I can never get back.
I missed out on my nieces first birthday. I missed out on the vacations where she learned to swim. I missed out seeing my brother graduate college. I missed out on the holidays, the parades. I missed out on birthdays. I missed out on life.
The pain haunts me knowing I didn't walk away from him… instead I walked away from the love of my family.
Yet even though I walked away, they never left me behind.
Once we reconciled enough to be in the same room, despite the monster beside me, they still were filled with love. They still accepted him because they loved me. They were willing to put it all aside out of love. Yet after the few visits I would be allowed to have with them, I would be met with anger. I remember so many drives home from visiting my family where I would be yelled at. With tears streaming down my face he would tell me to grow up. He would tell me I shouldn't miss them so much because I had him. He would tell me I was too emotional, and that I wasn't mature enough. He would twist scripture and tell me that when we got married it was his job to pull me from my family. He would pick apart every interaction and grill me about what was said when he left the room. He would dictate to me how our interactions would be limited when we had kids because he didn't want my family around our children too much. I would stop the tears, and quietly focus on the road… knowing that I couldn't argue or object to his orders.
Even through all that, they never left me behind. They prayed, and they loved. They even planned my return.
They showed me what it meant to trust in God, even in the darkest times. Knowing that God would bring me home, even when I wasn't so sure I would get out alive.
I remember the long awaited phone call. The morning it ended I called my mom, hysterically crying… barely able to make out words. All I had to say was "it's time". And she knew. My body trembling in fear, in anticipation. My eyes clouded with tears, and my chest tight with anxiety. She said "are you sure?" I said "I just don't know what to do."
I didn't know what to do, but she had awaited this moment for years. On the other end of the phone was home. The walls around me was no longer home, but instead it was my prison. I couldn't speak sentences, but she knew. She walked me through what to do, what I needed to pack, and where I needed to go. Within 15 minutes, my weak knees and broken spirit loaded the car and Abbie and I drove. On the other end of the phone was love, acceptance, patience, and forgiveness. She and my sister drove an hour and a half to meet me and pick up Abbie so that I could go into work. There was no hesitation, there was no question. They were there. They wouldn't leave me behind.
Through the nightmares, and the anger… the anxiety, and the fears. They allowed me to heal, they welcomed me back with open arms. They didn't dangle the pain I caused them over my head like a lingering disease. Instead they showed me patience. Whatever it took they were willing to struggle with me while God healed us all.
The journey isn't over, and the healing continues. I may never be able to get those years back and I can't erase the pain I caused, but I can make sure that the memories ahead are far more beautiful than those behind… knowing I will never take their love for granted, because God has truly blessed me with a family full of love abounding.