Marriage enrichment: Find your own George Bailey in your life

The lives of the writer’s family would be been much different if not for the faith of an older sister

By Marian Christiana

Advent is a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the coming of Jesus. It is one thing to be prepared to welcome Jesus but quite another to allow Him to transform our lives once He arrives.

This Advent I am contemplating how the birth of Jesus has affected my life and how I can allow Him to continue to guide my life. To do this I am looking at role models in my life who imitate the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ in the way they live their lives. I am using their example to help me improve my efforts to share love in a sacrificial way.

One of the role models I am thinking about is my sister Demaris Quiroz. My sister turned 70 last month. Seventy is a big deal for anyone, but it is especially true for our Demaris. You see, Demaris is a 25-year breast cancer survivor, a three-year survivor of a Saddle Pulmonary Embolism, and our families’ very own George Bailey. If you are not familiar with the character George Bailey from the Christmas movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” let me share a short synopsis of the movie.

George Bailey spends his entire life giving of himself to the people of Bedford Falls. He sacrificed his desire for travel and adventure in order to work for his late father’s modest Building and Loan Co. It is the only business in town that a rich skinflint, Mr. Potter, doesn’t own. On Christmas Eve, George’s forgetful Uncle Billy loses the Building and Loan’s $8,000 while on his way to deposit it in the bank.

Mr. Potter finds the misplaced money and, in an effort to make a play for the last business he doesn’t own, hides the money from Billy. Later that night a bank examiner discovers the shortage. George realizes that he is ultimately responsible for the shortage and will go to jail along with losing the company. Mr. Potter will finally own the whole town.

Thinking that his wife, young children, and others whom he loves will be better off with him dead, he contemplates suicide. George is despondent and is unaware that all of his loved ones have been praying for him. God hears their prayers and sends a gentle angel named Clarence to earth to help George. Clarence shows George what life would be like if he had never been born and helps George see that the love of family and friends far outweighs the lost $8,000.

Now I am not saying that my sister Demaris is contemplating taking her life! I am saying, however, that she gave up a large part of her life in order to make sure that her younger brother and sisters were settled before she moved on with her own life plan. As I have mentioned before in previous articles, our mother died when we were young. Demaris was 14 years old.

Our two older siblings went to work to help support the family, and Demaris was left in charge of the three younger siblings. She took her responsibility very seriously. She wanted to make sure that her three younger siblings could stand on their own and take care of themselves before she moved out on her own, married, and started her own family.

I won’t list details of all of the generous things that Demaris has done for all five of her siblings, as well as for her husband and children, cousins, and friends. Suffice it say that she has been and continues to be very generous with her time, talent, and treasure. She is our go-to problem solver, adviser, and social chairwoman.

We owe Demaris a great deal of gratitude for the sacrificial love she has shown not only to her family but also to everyone who is lucky enough to call her a friend. My work in marriage preparation and enrichment has also benefited from watching how Demaris and her husband, Tony, have lived a strong Catholic marriage for more than 37 years.

This all brings me back to George Bailey. My comparison of Demaris to George Bailey is because our lives would have turned out much, much differently if she, at age 14, hadn’t stepped into the void created by our mother’s death. She stayed focused on us until we were grown and stable. She has been our anchor.

When I was young, I would wonder what caused Demaris to make the unselfish decisions that she made during her life. Now that I am older, I understand that Demaris is led by her deep faith in Jesus. She understood from a young age that she needed to stay grounded in her Catholic faith and allow her love of Jesus to be her guide in how she lived her life. Unlike George Bailey’s faith before he met Clarence, Demaris’ faith is not passive. She continues to be very engaged in developing and living out her Catholic faith for the benefit of all of us who know her.

This Advent season, let me challenge you to contemplate your own George Bailey. Find someone in your life who helps you to see and feel the love of Christ and allow that love to transform you. Let us all allow the love of Jesus to transform our lives and give us the strength to share that love with one another. You may never know in this life how your love has affected someone else’s life, but rest assured, love never fails.

Merry Christmas!

 

Marian Christiana is coordinator of the diocesan Marriage Preparation and Enrichment Office.

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