On every Boxing Day as far back as I can remember, my maternal aunts, uncles and cousins have gathered not just to celebrate Christmas but also family. This year was the first time my dear Auntie Marj wasn’t there.
She passed away on January 5th after living a full life as a wife, mother, sister, aunt and grandmother. Like my mother, she leaves behind a legacy of love that began in childhood and continues in future generations.
When my mom was 9, her widowed mother died, leaving all nine children orphaned. The older siblings, including Aunt Marj, Mamie and Hazel decided not to abandon the younger ones who would likely have been moved to orphanages.
In everyday acts of courage and love, all the brothers and sisters were clothed, fed and educated. They had committed their lives to looking after one another. I believe my aunts were my mom’s best friends.
That’s why my mom always told us of the importance of family. She would remind me as a teen more interested in going out with friends. “Your friends may come and go,” she said, “but this family will always be here for you.”
She was right of course.
As we celebrate our province’s first Family Day on February 11th, we have to recognize that families come in many forms. We have single parents, same sex parents, adoptive parents and blended families. We have couples married or not married some with pets but without children.
I consider them all families when two or more people come together in love and create a home. It is in our family relationships that we learn to love, accept one another, give and receive graciously.
Families are as imperfect as we all are, and I know of many who have grown up with conflict, neglect or abuse. Difficult childhood experiences shape our sense of self-worth and influence our future relationships. With courage and assistance, some have overcome their difficult beginnings and created more meaningful relationships and homes in adulthood.
Instead of treating this first Family Day as just a new statutory holiday, reflect on your own family of origin and your family today. Think about those you know who do not have families, and if you think you are without a family, remember the friends who love you.
Wherever you are loved and feel at home, there is your family.