“Love is a condition so strong that it may be that which holds the stars in their heavenly positions and that which causes the blood to flow orderly in our veins. I will look after you and I will look after anybody you say needs to be looked after, any way you say. I am here. I brought my whole self to you. I am your mother.” – Maya Angelou
If you were born into a large family you probably didn’t realize how lucky you were. During your early years you may have engaged in arguments with your siblings over trivial matters like whose turn it was to clean up after dinner, walk the dog, or make the beds.
There may have been disagreements over which programs to watch on television or how loud the music should be played in the house. When your disputes seemed unable to be resolved, your mom was generally the one who acted as the intermediary.
Like most moms, she didn’t take sides, but used her maternal wisdom to show each of you how to benefit from her decision. Most importantly, she taught you how to get along and love each other because you were family. When you’re very young and impetuous you may not grasp the importance of parental influence on your future. Most young adults will admit that the older they got, the smarter their parents seemed to be.
Recently, I met a woman who knows all about large families. Agnes Ferrand raised her 3 children and helped raise her 9 grandchildren. For most mothers that would be more than enough child-rearing for a lifetime. Nevertheless, Ms. Ferrand, who just turned 50 years of age, has embarked on another child-raising journey, this time, because of a promise she made to her sister. After surviving the devastation of Hurricane Katrina when she lived in New Orleans, Agnes moved to Denton, Texas to be close to her grown children, who had settled here. Her sister Marie, who also lived nearby, became ill last year and began to worry about the fate of her 6 grandchildren if she died. She asked Agnes if she would take care of them if it happened.
Incredulous about the possibility of losing her 46 year-old sister, who didn’t have a medical history of illness, Agnes agreed, but joked about it. “I told her she’s not going to die, but if she did, I would wake her up and kill her myself.” Two months later, Marie died of a sudden heart attack. “The last two months of her life, I don’t know if she felt something, but she kept talking about what would happen to her grandbabies if she passed away. I’m glad I made her that promise. Now I know she is happy that I am taking care of the children,” Agnes said, adding tearfully, “My sister was my best friend!” Togetherness is something Agnes learned at an early age. “When we were little, my grandmother kept us together and she vowed to take care of us. There were 5 of us at that time.”
This past Friday morning, at the Denton County Courthouse, Agnes formally adopted her sister’s 6 grandchildren in Judge Sherry Shipman’s District Court. Her attorney, Al Filidoro, who donated his legal services, pro bono, read the oath to Ms. Ferrand, who, surrounded by 6 little smiling faces, gleefully accepted her new role. When asked why she decided to add 6 more children to her already large family, she said, “I want them to grow up together. My sister would not have wanted them to be separated by the system.” Agnes had been living in an apartment but, found a house to lease in order to accommodate her new family. When Filidoro initially visited their home to obtain the facts of the case, they were having dinner and he was amazed at how disciplined they were. “Once dinner was over, they got up and, without a word, each had their jobs to do as they began clearing things up,” he said.
When he mentioned to Agnes that her experience would make a great story, she replied, “The great story will be when my children become doctors and lawyers.” She spoke about how she handles the day to day interaction with her children. “The key word is respect! We make sure that we respect one another and that we have our own space. I have to deal with 6 different personalities, so there are times when I don’t know which personality may wake up in the morning. But, I’m ready for every one of them.” I asked which is tougher to raise, boys or girls. “Usually, the girls because they have attitude and bodytude,” she said with a smile. Agnes is planning for the most joyous holiday of her life this month, as 6 more helpings of love become part of the Thanksgiving menu. Another essence of love will be present at that table, unseen, but not forgotten, as her sister Marie watches from her heavenly home.