The power of Family swirls around me. You can’t argue with the simple evocative strength of the word Mother, Father, Son, Daughter, Brother, Sister, Cousin, Aunt, Uncle, Grandmother, Grandfather, Grandchild, Husband, Wife, Niece, Nephew.
As strong as the ties of friendship might encircle and bind, they cannot entirely compete with the strength and veracity of Family. Maybe they aren’t supposed to compete. Maybe they are supposed to complement.
If you doubt what I say, then attend a funeral of someone whose life touched thousands. There are a select few who warrant inclusion in that sacred circle of Family ties, but only a few. The rest are inherently barely outside the circle, pressing in with love, support, tears, memories.
There are many family like relationships out there. I am called Auntie or Sister by those I have shared incredible life-changing experiences with. But does that make me Family? It feels like family, it tastes like family, the hugs mimic family hugs; perhaps sometimes even exceed them in emotion. But it isn’t Family.
Big “F” little “f”
Maybe the distinction is merely semantic or the difference between Family with a capital “F” and family with a small “f.”
Or is it all about legality and blood lines? I have no idea.
I do know that I want my Family to know I love them. I want my Family to know that those connections include a willingness to sacrifice for them. They come first. They are the why behind everything. I draw strength from the collective power of the love they have for me. I count on their unconditional acceptance. I am who I am in large measure because of their influence in my life, present or distant. They are foundational and firm and forever.
What about that second circle that surrounds me, my family of friends? They are included in my willingness to sacrifice. In fact, it’s that sacrificial nature of those relationships that has made them feel unbreakable. Their losses are my losses. My losses, and I’m sure of this, are their losses. They are family in ways my blood kin are not, in different ways, like chinking between logs in a cabin, or shingles on a sturdy roof.
Both kinds of family feel necessary. Both house and clothe me in safety, love, reassurance, gentleness and kindness.
To be the recipient of both Family and family is a rare and opulent gift of surpassing beauty. I hope never to squander such richness. I hope I can share it, one on one. One heart, one tear, one smile, one hug at a time.
My New Year’s Wish would be that such circles include more people that feel outside of one or both. Does that sound unrealistic? I don’t think so. If one person this next year feels more loved, safer, cared for, part of something bigger, because I reached out and pulled them into my Family or family circle then their world and mine improves, lightens and grows. Would you join in with me in reaching out, including, caring, loving? Just one person. That’s all it takes.