I would like to introduce you to just a few of the great people that I spent the majority of my time with while living in Berlin.
Claire is my brothers’ wife and the mother of my nephew Maxim.
The first time I met Claire was upon my arrival in Germany a few months ago, even though most of my immediate family had already met her years ago. I had emailed and spoken to her on the phone and heard so much about my brothers’ beautiful wife, but never physically met her myself.
I cleared my mind of others meetings and relationships with Claire and met her with an open mind and heart. I assumed that since my family is so close and my sibling relationships are the most important to me, this would be an easy sisterhood to develop. What I didn’t take into account was the fact that her upbringing was very different from the ultra-blended, dramatically unique family that I was brought up in.
Claire had taken a lot of chances, moving to Germany to create a life for her and her new family. I can’t imagine all of the overwhelming changes that she had to endure all the while being a great wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend. I may not have understood her at all times, I may have been disillusioned when she didn’t instinctively understand me, but I love her all the same – like there are no differences at all – like family.
My brother calls his wife his “Clarity”. I got to see beyond the cute nickname and understand why she has deserved such a regard. Claire is the definition of clarity. She is obviously super model-beautiful but her depth is also crystal-clear. She is intelligent and practical. She has great expectations that are unquestionably justified. Claire is also protective and private and may hate that I am going into detail about her, but I do so anyways because maybe if she reads this, she will understand just how much I love her…for exactly who she is.
Maxim is my newest nephew! I arrived in Germany when he was nearly three months old. It had been quite some time since there had been a baby born into my family so it’s easy to forget what it’s like to have one around. It’s amazing and surreal when your siblings turn into parents so it was an opportunity that I couldn’t miss, even though he lived so far away. My meeting Max was definitely a huge motivation for my trip. I had his picture as my cell phone screen-saver for months leading up to it, and every time I was faced with a challenge or a road-block in my plans, I would look at his picture and be reassured that nothing would stop me from getting to him. Every minute that I was able to spend with him, once I arrived, reassured me that every sacrifice that I made was worth it, just to see him smile.
In the three months I was reminded just how challenging caring for a baby is. It doesn’t matter if you are happy or sad or distracted by any other emotional or physical demand or crisis, it all has to be set aside when that baby needs you. I was reminded of all the credit and respect that a mother deserves and may not always receive.
Max is a pure gem. He filled my heart with so much love and joy and I just about burst every time he greeted me with a big smile and a giggle (which he did nearly every single time he saw me) and my heart melts with every thought of him still.
There were so many picture-perfect moments with Max but I felt that instead of grabbing my camera each and every time, I would take a mental picture and really capture the tender moments with my heart. I know that he will not remember my visit or the many phases he has already gone through in his young life, but I am so blessed that I will. I would sometimes stare at him and wish that he never forgets that every single day of his life, from before his very first day in the world, beyond his capacity to even remember, he is loved. Imagine if we all could remember, and never take for granted for even a day, that there has always been at least one person that has loved us, wished nothing but the best for us, each and every single day of our existence. His young life has reminded me that I am capable of being and doing so much more than I even comprehend and to never take a single second for granted. My little bubba is already making an impact on the world and he doesn’t even know it yet!
As I said goodbye to him, leaning over his crib, he was the typical Max that I love so much. As my heart was breaking, he sent me off with the image of his perfect little smile, his squinting blue eyes, and the sound of his gut-busting giggle embedded in my memory for life.
Lucas is my brother. He is nine years my senior so it goes without saying that our lives went through different phases at vastly different times. Growing up, I never really knew him. I say that, not because we didn’t see each other or didn’t talk, but because in order for me to feel like I truly know someone, I need to have those intimate, meaningful, personal, soul-baring and fulfilling conversations (I’m very emotional but have a hard shell so…it is what it is). He left home and started his travelling adventure very young, which made me even younger. The extent of my brother-sister quality time was during short visits between stints living in B.C., Thailand, Australia, Ireland, Paris…and on and on and on…needless to say, those intimate conversations rarely happened.
Since he has settled in Germany with a family of his own, I knew it was time to ambush him and get to know who he really is. I could never have anticipated all that I ended up learning about him.
My brother is the definition of the phrase, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going”. I have never witnessed someone to be as hard-working (since my dad of course), as determined, as positive and as ambitious – all at once – in my life – like I have with my brother. I guess I took for granted the knowledge, confidence and personable skills he has gained over the years immersing in other cultures. Who moves to a new country, not knowing anyone or even the language, to start a business, for the thrill of the challenge? My brother is the kind of person to do exactly that. He works hard to play hard, sometimes to a fault, but always with a laugh.
I happened to be in Germany during a family crisis taking place back home. I got to experience how difficult it is to be so far away from family during tough times, knowing there is nothing you can do to immediately help the situation. My brother has missed a lot of both good and bad times while he has been living his life around the world. While I thought he had it so easy, off living the good life, I came to understand that there are some heart-breaking challenges and sacrifices he has to deal with as well, while creating a life far away from family. It turns out that our coping mechanisms were aligned in this particular situation but I observed his reactions with more thoughtfulness and admiration than I would have had I not been by his side. It takes a kind of strength beyond my imagination to be able to rely on your own self to pull up your socks and get on with life as you’ve created it.
I got the opportunity to observe him run a restaurant, be a boss, a chef, a dad, a husband, a friend, be the nice guy, the funny guy, the charming guy, the personable guy, the sociable guy…and a brother, and that’s the role that I am luckiest to have a part of my life. My life is forever changed because of all of those brother-sister memories that were created over those three months. Luke has a lifetime worth of really cool and fascinating stories that would impress anybody. Cool stories aside, I am so honoured that I had the chance to get to know my brother. He has taught me that great things can happen in life, even if you have to make some tough sacrifices along the way.
And there you have it…
Thanks to those three very special people, I have a heart full of great memories to look back on with an abundance of gratitude. I will miss them everyday but will be forever grateful for every single hug, laugh, tear (and sangria) that I got to share with them. I will follow them to the ends of the earth, if need be, to get my fix again real soon!