Friday, 23 March 2012

All in the family - or not

It’s been a while since I wrote – it’s funny how life and death and all the emotions and tasks associated with them get in the way of the other things you really want to do. But it’s not like I’m the first person to ever figure that out. Some people are just better organized than I am. (Go figure – I’m a Libra and we’re supposed to crave order in our lives. Well, I do crave it, I just don’t seem capable of achieving it!)

This weekend is the celebration of life for the friend I told you about in my first blog entry. Her illness, and her death, have got me thinking about family.

Families are strange creatures, or collections of creatures. Despite the shared DNA, there always seem to be people who view life from radically divergent perspectives. Different priorities, different loyalties, and different life experiences – both in childhood and as adults – contribute to what is often more like a forced meeting of strangers. Have you ever reminisced with family members about a specific event and found out that they have a completely different memory of it than you do? Perspective, then and now.

All too often, you hear of the ferocious fights that break out in families over estates when a family member dies. With some families it’s about the money, with others it’s about the memories associated with the disputed items. I bought my first flatware set when I left home at an auction sale where sisters were bidding against each other for their mother’s silver. That’s a sad way to settle an estate.

Most of my late friend’s family is in England, with only her children and their families here in Canada. Yet I know that her celebration will be full of people who loved her and mourn her passing. Not family by blood or law, but by heart.

I have a few friends whose families put the “dys” in dysfunctional. What contact they have will never qualify as Hallmark moments.

In their lives, the people they choose to surround themselves with are their real families. Friends who build them up, who help them when they need it, who call on them when they need help, who trust them with their thoughts and feelings, their love.

There’s an old saying that you can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family.

I disagree. I believe the families of our hearts that we build up over our lives are often more vital to our wellbeing than our families of blood. And I’m very grateful to have them in my life.