There are some people you meet that move you by their ability to love, to give, and to care for others. My sister-in-law, Silvana Dunlop, is one of those people. We all have the capacity to love. But living out our love for others is often much harder to do.
Silvana is one of those people who somehow manages to give of herself for others in ways that so many of merely dream of doing.
One of the simplest ways she demonstrates her love for others is the way she hosts people in her home. When you enter her house you’re warmly welcomed by her, and her husband Ken, my wife’s brother. Then there’s the way she cooks for you. She’s a fabulous cook. She could easily be the chef at a fine Italian restaurant. It’s not just that the food is good, it’s how much care and love she’s put into it. Her and Ken often hosts large groups of family and friends in their home. She spends hours upon hours preparing for those meals. But even if it’s a small group you can always tell how much effort she’s put into the meal.
An extension of her cooking is her baked goods. She’s an amazing baker. She makes the most intricate decorated sugar bread cookies. She makes them for all sorts of occasions. Be it a family birthday, Easter, Canada Day, Halloween, or Christmas she always seems to be making cookies. I mention this because we all love her cookies, they’re a real treat. They take a lot of time and effort to make-a testament to her patience. I find it amazing that she consistently gives of herself this way.
Silvana worked for thirty-six years in a male dominated industry. Though she didn’t face any harassment, she did have to prove herself equal or better than her male counterparts every step of the way. She was a single parent for ten years. She says it helped give her the strength to build a successful career and to set an example to her son that challenges in life can be overcome if you persevere.
She’s a proud grandmother who loves all her grandchildren. Some grandparents have a limited interest or capacity in helping out with their grandchildren. Even though Silvana has physical challenges because of severe psoriatic arthritis, she extends herself beyond what anyone might expect of her when it comes to helping out and spending time with her grandchildren.
One of the most amazing examples of the way she gives of herself is the way that she and Ken cared for and eventually took in her parents. At first, they encouraged her parents to sell their single-family home and buy a condominium townhouse that came up for sale next to theirs. Her parents bought the house. They lived next door to each other for five years.
Silvana knew that her parents didn’t want to go into a retirement home and eventually an extended care residence. As her parents’ health began to deteriorate Silvana and Ken bought a single-family home and made accommodations for her parents in their home. They installed a stair chair lift and arranged for special nursing and care visits in the home. And the most amazing part is that they gave so much of their own time caring for them. Even though there was limited professional home care visits, the burden of care was gladly taken on by them. Sil and Ken’s lives were dictated by caring for her parents. Not once did I hear Silvana or Ken complain about their decision to care for Silvana’s parents this way. Her father lived with them for two years and her mother for four years before they passed away.
Silvana has no regrets about the effort she put into loving her parents that way.
She said, “My brother and sisters were such an important part of helping us care for our parents. We could not have done it alone.”
For years I witnessed true beauty and strength. All the while, as she took care of her parents, she continued to pour out her love on to the rest of her extended family, and continued struggling with her physical challenges.
We’ve all been blessed to be the recipients of such love.
Silvana, you epitomize strength and beauty.
You are a strong beautiful woman.
If you haven’t already read the intro blog to the series to understand why I’m writing this Strong Beautiful Women series you can do so byclicking here, or go hereto read about the other Strong Beautiful Women I’ve had the privilege to honour.