LESLEY KEATING: Never say never to healing family rifts

Skeleton staff at the cemetery
Skeleton staff at the cemetery
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Families are usually the lynchpin of our existence and, for the most part, we usually get along. However, some families are embroiled in long-standing feuds and have vowed to never speak again. But fate sometimes intervenes.

On ITV’s Loose Women the other month, presenter Jane Moore told an incredible story about sharing a flat with a fellow student when she was at uni.

She had never met him before yet they became really good friends, but never knew each other’s families.

Then, a couple of years into their friendship, during a random evening spent looking at his photographs, she was shocked to see a picture of her own grandmother. They were second cousins, separated by some long-forgotten grudge which had divided the generations.

It also happened to me. My grandfather and his brother and sister fell out during the depression of the 1930s. It was over something which sounds so trivial now, but back then it was a big deal.

His sister and family turned up, uninvited and unexpected, at my grandmother’s door one Sunday lunchtime when my grandmother had precious little to feed her own family, let alone extra to offer visitors, embarrassing her during a time of hardship and austerity.

There was a row. Sadly, none of them ever spoke again, which was a tragedy in itself, but doubly so when you realise none of their children ever did either.

They all died estranged from the very families they should have been close to.

My father never knew his cousins and I never knew any family on his father’s side either.

Then, about 15 years ago, while searching online for something unrelated, I made a connection with a woman from Essex who, miraculously, transpired to be my second cousin, the granddaughter of my grandfather’s estranged sister.

After swapping many messages and photographs, we eventually met and a bitter family rift spanning more than 70 years was finally healed.

So never say never. And as it’s a new year, if you’ve reached a stalemate with family, maybe now’s the time to build bridges


Nothing like a little black humour to brighten your day.

During the festive season, I took some small potted Christmas trees to the cemetery for my parents’ and my aunt’s and uncle’s, graves.

The first stop-off at my parents’ grave went as planned but, when we went across the cemetery to my aunt’s and uncle’s grave, incredibly it had disappeared. We couldn’t find the headstone anywhere.

Baffled, we checked all the gravestones. Could we have possibly got the location wrong? Had it been vandalised or become unsafe?

Defeated, I rang the council offices.

‘Sorry’, they said. ‘You’ll have to ring back after the New Year. We only have a skeleton staff on duty today!”


Where do you stand on the subject of re-gifting unwanted presents?

I have no qualms about recycling presents, provided they don’t go back to the original sender. Awkward.

Just because something doesn’t float my boat, doesn’t make it unsuitable for someone else. Why should it matter if I didn’t pay for it? It’s still mine to give.

If someone also decides to pass on one of mine that hasn’t quite hit the spot, then that’s great too.

On ITV’s Lorraine, a somewhat huffy guest said: ‘A friend re-gifted my present, but I found out, so that’s the last time they get one from me!’

Well, maybe they should have taken the trouble to get it right first time if they’re that bothered.