what if your family’s like strangers?

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Never once did I think, in writing about hospitality, that I would be challenged this poignantly. Yesterday I visited an aunty who I haven’t met or talked or since I was 15. She has recurring cancer in her lymph nodes and my mum had requested our pastor to pray for her.

The last time I saw her daughter, my cousin, she was only a child no more than 10 years old. I even remember how I was slightly jealous of her when as a new-born baby, my then favourite aunt doted on her and showered her with attention. Now she’s all grown-up and studying in a junior college.

Wanting to maintain contact after the visit, I asked her if she’s on fb. I was more than a little surprised when she said no, because she has to study. It’s a strange feeling discovering new yet mundane facts about someone to whom you’re related.

To be honest, this aunty was never on my ‘good’ list. She used to favour my cousins who were from more well-to-do families and often left me out of treats and fun activities. Only my grandfather, who would be extra nice to me, made up for my childhood experience.

But when we visited yesterday, I was relieved to know that none of the old grudges were hurting anymore. (Ironically, it’s my then favourite aunt who I have the most difficult relationship with now.) In fact, I felt almost nolstagic, and curious about what’s happened to her all these years that we didn’t see each other.

She seemed strong and shared candidly about the doctor’s diagnosis. I wondered about the time she would cry alone, in the dark, at home, without anyone. Her daughter listened to our conversation and showed no signs of pain or confusion. But can that be real?

Thank God for my mum who made the first move to pray for her and accompany her to the doctor. I’ve always thought she’s still harboring unforgiveness from all the family troubles in her generation. She probably still is, but it’s a work in progress.

My hospitality plans thus far were pretty haphazard since I’m a noob and everything is new. I can do anything and learn something still! Now however, this is it. Given my limited resources, I have to give greater attention and time to welcoming my aunt than to others.

I don’t feel like I want to do it, I don’t know how to do it, I don’t like how I don’t know how it will turn out… But the love of God compels me to spend time and energy to reach out to my aunt and encourage her daughter too (who’s already a Christian).

You don’t know how weird it is to text someone who’s supposed to be your cousin but feels less familiar than even a mere acquaintance. You don’t know how odd it is to say to relatives who you thought you wouldn’t see for the rest of your life, “Shall we meet for dinner?”

I don’t know either but I’d find out soon. This is hospitality in a crunch.

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