Last night I saw the WE program “9-11 Millionaire Widows.” It describes the lives of several families of 9-11 victims, 3000 of whom received nearly $7 billion in compensation since their loved ones were killed in the Twin Towers attack.
Ironically, the image WE used on their website is not, technically, of a widow. Lisa Goldberg was a “partner” to Martin McWilliams, a fireman who was crushed in the North Tower when their daughter Sara was an infant. The couple was not married, McWilliams left no will — and his parents contested her right to accept the money on their granddaughter’s behalf. Granted, Lisa was the mother of their grandchild — but at the end of the day, she was not their son’s wife. In their eyes — and, as it turned out, in the eyes of the court — she had no legal standing.
Like many who sought compensation for their loses, Lisa claims it’s “not about the money.” “My existence with this man has been deleted. That’s the hardest thing that I have to live with, besides him really being gone.”
And yet, as I heard her speak, I couldn’t help but wonder: If they were so much in love, why on earth did they not get married? While marrying ONLY for the sake of an unplanned pregnancy is not always the best course, being in love AND having a child would seem to be a very good reason indeed. (Ironically, several articles about the show refer to McWilliams as Goldberg’s “husband,” and yet McWilliams’ mother indicates the couple were not even engaged at the time of her son’s death.)
A “baby daddy” or “baby mamma” is not the same as a husband or a wife. If you’re going to create a family, for heaven’s sake … commit to it! On the other hand, if a couple brings a child into the world, but doesn’t have the confidence or commitment to formalize their union and create a real family, how can they expect the rest of society to “recognize” what does not in fact exist: a life-long, exclusive union between husband and wife?
The marriage bond is the foundation on which every human society is built and sustained, and it provides the security every child needs. In this scenario, it wasn’t the government or the legal system who let that little girl down . . . it was her parents.
Saturday’s Gospel speaks to this point. In the Book of Luke (6:43-49), Jesus says:
“…I will show you what someone is like who comes to me,
listens to my words, and acts on them.
That one is like a man building a house,
who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock;
when the flood came, the river burst against that house
but could not shake it because it had been well built.
But the one who listens and does not act
is like a person who built a house on the ground
without a foundation.
When the river burst against it,
it collapsed at once and was completely destroyed.”
What kind of foundation are you building on today? Has it been ordered according to God’s plan for the family — or your own preferences or opinions? If something happened to you today, if your “river burst,” would you leave behind a legacy of life . . . or self-indulgence?
Next week at CatholicExchange.com (9/15), I’ve posted an article about an upcoming movie called “Lost and Found Family.” Be sure to check it out!