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What Is This “Family” Thing Anyhow?

My daughter and her best friend, who is just like another daughter to me, being beautiful as always.

My daughter and her best friend, who is just like another daughter to me, being beautiful as always.

Family. A word. Complete with a definition, depending on where you look, a definition that tells us what to believe or think or feel about what makes up a family. How about we take a moment, and stop to ask ourselves “What does the word family really mean?”

We live in a society which over time has broadened, softened, changed the meaning of this word so vastly that perhaps it is time we all define family in a way that works for our situation. Take me for example. I am a daughter to parents who loved me. They adopted me, and chose to make me part of their family – they didn’t take what they got – they picked me. Along with that, I am a sister to a brother who is also adopted, chosen, by his family. He believes me to be his sister, and in the reverse he is the brother I have known. Are we then a family? Sure. Of course, add in our one time cat and our one time dog… the photo in the album is complete and pretty traditional. That doesn’t mean it is the only family one can have.

As I grew older, I began to chose my family, moved out on my own (against the wishes of my family to be honest) and tried to find my way. Perhaps I was searching for the missing pieces of who I believed I should be? Or maybe I was just a little nuts. Either way, I began adding to what I viewed as family. People I found in my teens who seemed like pieces of my spirit which had been missing became part of what I called “family”  although I won’t name them, please know they helped me to become something more complete and more worthwhile, because they taught me their lessons and tried to accept me as I am. Did they all stay with me for the whole journey, of course not, such is life – we change, grow, and move away – but because I knew them “I have been changed – for good”.

In my adult life, I found others who seemed to be kindred spirits – missing pieces of that “whole” we all go through life trying to create. My peers: Christopher, my soul mate… love of my life; Fred & Jonathan, brothers in my heart; Joyce K., Pat M., Marcia, Lynn S., Peggy K, Darcy M, Katie, the sisters of my soul,  and a few others to whom I am not “related” are people I consider family. They are my dear ones, the people I trust, those who are usually able to work through my brokenness and my flaws, my quirks, and see who I really am. Just as I honestly try to always do for them… many of whom remain part of the “family” that I have chosen in addition to the “relatives” I actually have. These are the gatekeepers and hopefully they know I love them and am here for them without hesitation, if they need me, just like my own relatives. Also, there are the kids. Friends of my own children, kids who through my kids or because our lives overlapped, I have grown to know and see as kind, decent humans with bright futures, among them, Anna, Pat, Christine, Emily,  Natalie, and most especially Amanda, the young lady in the photo with my beautiful daughter. These kids – are like family – always the door will be opened and always – they are dear to my own family – Amanda will always be a special part of the Quinn family – while still being part of her own. But they have become those we consider family and without all of these people my life and my family would be diminished.  When things are not perfect with us… I will continue to love them all – because they are “like” family.  And family is forever.

Largeness of heart is a spiritual gift – a gift we are called to share – so question the truth set before us and include people who help put the missing pieces together because only then is our brokenness made whole and only by living in the love of those who we hold dear can we become all we are meant to be. Jewish custom requires us to “throw open the door to Elijah” because in entertaining a stranger you often also invite angels- our family is what we make it and I am blessed to love and care for all of these people – may you find the same true in your life. Be happy – it’s how God meant you to be. Find the missing pieces – and remember family is what you decide.


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