Recently while waiting for a flight, I saw my cousin at the airport. She was headed to Texas to visit her sister; I was on my way to New York on business. We hugged and kissed and exchanged the usual pleasantries and then we both went our separate ways. But I was changed a little by that brief encounter. As I boarded my plane I recalled fond memories of our childhood and our shared experiences and I realized once again that family matters. I thanked God then and there.
Our need of family intrigues me. We need to belong. We need to be part of a group of individuals that share a common bond; common link; a common ancestor. This need to band together is primordial. We gather as one. One people. One tribe. One purpose.
I’m certain that there are people who like to live alone. Hermits perhaps or cloistered nuns. But most of want to live with others; to share our lives with others. We need to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. And families seem the perfect way to do that. The shared experiences. The shared traditions. The shared memories. The shared joys and sorrows. That’s what makes us family. That and our love for one another. In our caring for and being cared for by family we see God’s love in action.
Families are not just biological creations. Some families are individuals not joined by birth or marriage but joined by love or common cause. We become family by giving of ourselves to one another. We become sisters and brothers through our need for one another. We lift each other up; we carry one another’s burdens; we celebrate one another’s victories; we laugh together; we cry together; we pray together.
Recently I experienced the amazing love of family when my mother-in-law passed away. My wife and her brothers came together to support my father-in-law and to carry one another through the most painful of times. Their tenderness for one another and their love needed no words; no grand gestures. It was just pure and simple and profoundly beautiful. I have never been prouder of them or prouder to be a part of them.
Of course there will likely be many sad days ahead. Grief slips in and attacks us when we least expect it – a song, a photo, a favorite food, or some long-forgotten memory can trigger an emotional overload. Our loss can be truly disabling. But we trudge along and we cherish our memories and get busy with caing for one another. And we adjust. And we adapt. But we NEVER forget.
And this is why family matters.