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Relationships count

Janice Kuehn and family“Uncle Paul. This is Teri. I think you should come see my Mom.”

That was my niece on the phone the night before I was to leave to see my kids in California for Thanksgiving. You know from yesterday’s post that I went to Detroit instead of California. It was my Teri’s call that changed my plans.

When I arrived in Livonia, a suburb of Detroit, my sister Janice hardly recognized me. This was actually not a big surprise, because she had been in palliative care for chronic lung disease for several months. We had been in touch by phone regularly, but Jan’s condition changed significantly in the last week. Now she’s bed ridden, and hasn’t eaten for several weeks. She’s now in hospice care, and seems quite at peace with what’s happening.

To me Jan is a perfect example of the second in my five priorities for living well and long – i.e. relationship. She and her husband, Vern, have four children, eight grand children, and four great grand children, all of whom lovingly refer to Jan and her husband as “Baba and Papa.” The example they set with each other radiates down through the generations and has produced a tribe of emotionally healthy, loving, and productive people.

Remember from my first post that scientific studies suggest 75% of how long and how well we live is determined by our lifestyles and the everyday choices we make, and the other 25% is dictated by genes? Jan is now in the last stages of a disease coming probably from her genes. But the relationships she has established by the choices she has made in the other 75% shine throughout her family. Seeing her today reminds me of how much relationships count.

Here’s to another good night’s sleep, and an early rising to catch my morning flight to California.

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