By Adalia Gutiérrez Lee
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I never thought that at my age it would be so difficult to talk about my sisters; not because I don’t have something to say, but because I have too many things that I could tell you. I had two sisters and both of them died; one as a baby and one at a very young age. After having lost relatives so close to me, I was able to understand the verse “for love is strong as death” (Song of Songs 8: 6, NRSV); and after my experience I even dare to say that love is stronger thandeath. Although my sisters or our loved ones may have passed away, the love and close relationships that link us to them still persist. I do not pretend to be morbid talking about death or sad things, but I also do not want to ignore that love: “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” (1 Cor 13: 7-8 NRSV)
If we are afraid of suffering, it will be difficult to love. Even when I remember the many times I have cried for the people I love, or the many times I have cried over the loss of a loved one, I also realize that this is nothing when compared to the times that I know Jesus, and all the people who love me have cried with me!
I remember that there was a time in which I experienced a “streak” of losses of people very close to me in a way that made me feel “contagious”. I didn’t want people to get close to me for fear of passing my “bad luck”, or having to try to find an explanation to so much suffering. I do notconsider myself a superstitious or pessimistic person, but I was having a hard time processing my loss and grief. However, I also remember how much love I experienced at those moments from the great family of God as they embraced me and cried with me! I would not have been able to move on after such losses, if God had not manifested Godself in my life through the solidarity, prayers, hugs,and tears of all my sisters and brothers who loved me.
Now that I am at another stage of my life, I do keep expressing my love through tears. Yet, I no longer try to find an explanation to suffering; I only know that when we love, we also suffer. My life has been marked by tears of love although these tears have not only been of sadness, but tears of joy for having talked and shared precious times with my mother, sisters, sisters-in-law, cousins, daughters, nieces, and friends.
Latin American culture is well known for cultivating close relationships with the extended family; my family was no exception. I remember when my sister thanked me for living near her when she was sick as she told me: “Your presence has made such a big difference as from heaven to earth! Our daughters are not living together as cousins but as sisters, as you and I used to live and to share together.” After she died, I have tried to continue that unity between them. There is a unique and special bond and value in friendship and love between sisters. How many times we have laughed, or cried, or even thought of the same things when we are with our sisters! How many times we have fought with them and then repented because it is not worth it for anger to prevail in our relationships!
This time of advent in our Christian calendar is also a time of waiting. A time filled with hope, peace, joy and love. We need to confess our love and to live it first as families, and also as the family of God. Particularly this year, as many countrieshave been suffering calamities, strikes, injustices, poverty, hopelessness, war,and death. Our call as a family of faith is to wait with hope, peace, joy and love. If we are to suffer for loving, we also need to remember that these tears of love are the ones that will remind us of the love and solidarity that Jesus has for us, for them, and for our people always!
Adalia Gutiérrez Lee serves at the International Ministries as the Area Director for Iberoamerica and the Caribbean and is a part of the CLLI Board.