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Sharing Love as Far as Possible

50th ann feat_v2

Editor’s Note: The featured image is of Guy and Lilian celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary.

May 28th was the fiftieth wedding anniversary of my host parents, Guy and Lilian.  I cannot put into words how humbled I am by their continued kindness, and how they have welcomed me into their family with open arms.  At a time when I was most in need, they made me feel love and joy like only a family can offer.

Although I have only seen a glimpse of their time together, the celebrations for this momentous occasion opened my eyes to how they are able to offer such warmth to those whom are blessed to be a part of their lives. While I expected music and dancing from dusk to dawn, I was surprised by how serious and emotional the event was.

When Hady and I arrived at their house, everyone was dressed very formally, and when we arrived at the church it looked like there was going to be a wedding. There were two chairs next to the altar where the two guests of honor sat and were encouraged to kiss at certain times.

What struck me most, however, was the speech that their son, Juan Pablo, gave after communion.  As he shared how his parents had been there for him and his siblings, he started to cry freely.  As soon as he started to cry, his sister, Liliana, also began to cry.

Lilian and Juan Pablo

Lilian and Juan Pablo

When the reception began, kisses and hugs were exchanged, followed by agradecimientos (expressions of gratitude) from Guy, Jr., who offered an account of the family that extended from Guy and Lilian’s parents to the current grandchildren.

When Guy, Jr. started to tear up, his father, mother, and sister each in turn offered him a sip of their champagne to clear his tears, and this is how he gently refused their offers:  “the emotion is a part of the speech.”  Finally, by the time everyone was crying, he accepted a glass of water from one of the wait staff, who was kind enough to stand next to him with a tray throughout the rest of the speech.

Guy, Jr. eloquently told the story of this impressive yet humble family, recounting the births, lives, and deaths of those who shared in forming generations of respect and honor.  The children next to them were a wonderful reminder of how with death comes birth, and a renewal of the circle of life, as bonds and family ties are strengthened.

The children: Lola, Liliana and Guy

The children: Lola, Liliana and Guy

Dancing, food and drinks, and emotions flowed freely as the night continued. I can’t believe how much closer I continue to feel to them, as they continue to let me into their lives.  My missioner friends have requested adoption into this family, and it is no wonder why.  Love that is strengthened by a bond of fifty years cannot help but reach beyond them, into centuries, cultures, and generations to come.

As I continue to reflect and appreciate the differences in our cultures, I can’t help but love this part:  men are able to not only cry but also show their emotions, without having to hear statements like, “don’t cry, be a man,” or being laughed at or made fun of.  In this way, they are able to bless their loved ones by showing how much they really care, instead of stifling their feelings and regretting the missed opportunity.

Why wait until their death bed to show someone you really care?  Let’s take this lesson from the Latin American culture as an chance to tell those around us how much we really love them, before it is too late. Happy Valentine’s Day, with much love!

Hady, Guy, and Valerie

Hady, Guy, and Valerie


Want to follow in Val’s footsteps? Clink the link below!

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Valerie served for two years (2014-2015) in Cochabamba, Bolivia working with CUBE (Centro Una Brisa de Esperanza) to raise sexual violence awareness and prevention, and in CEV (Comunidad Educativa Para La Vida) teaching and nurturing children six months to 8-years-old. Valerie grew up outside of Wichita, Kansas and graduated from The University of Tampa. She found her way to Franciscan Mission Service after 12 years of working in higher education where she worked with international students and designed and taught a class called "Avoiding Violence: Be A Part of the Solution."