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The family you choose

A little over a week ago, I lost my uncle. Some may ask the question which side of the family he was from and that is where the question gets interesting. He was technically from neither side, he was just my dad’s best friend. I’ve purposely taken the ‘just’ out of the previous sentence, because it is inaccurate. The word ‘just’ implies that he was only my dad’s best friend, but that is not true, he was so much more. My dad and Jeff had been friends since they were little boys, growing up in the same town, getting into the same trouble. Eventually, they grew into men and traveled across the US in a car for weeks, having only one tiff over a parking spot. As most men do, they each started their families, marrying women that they were head-over-heels for. As it would turn out, my dad had two daughters but my Uncle Jeff and Aunt Heather could not have any children of their own. That didn’t stop them from loving me, my sister and our three cousins like blood. My dad and Jeff were closer than some brothers ever get. They kept each other’s secrets and over forty years of at least weekly breakfasts in adulthood, they never ran out of things to talk about. There are marriages that don’t fair nearly as well, or last nearly as long.

My dad and his best friend, Jeff (right).

My dad and his best friend, Jeff (right).

Just because someone isn’t your family by blood, or a legal document that can be revoked as easily as it was made, does not make them any less your family. Your family is who you choose to share your life with. I feel so blessed to have a husband that understands the very meaning of this. His best friend is more of a brother to him than his own flesh and blood brother. They talk more often and share more love than a lot of brothers do. I’m also lucky to have a sister that I consider one of my best friends. That doesn’t happen very often. I would stay in touch with her even if we weren’t bonded by blood and family. We understand each other and I would do anything for her.

Although Jeff didn’t have any children of his own, I know of five girls that will miss him for the rest of their lives and mourn him like he was family.

I had a dream the other night where Jeff spoke to me and told me, “It will be ok, shorty.” He used to call me that as my six foot frame towered over his much shorter stature. When I told him I loved him, he said “I know, kid, I know.” The last thing he said to me before I awoke sobbing into my husband’s arms was , “Tell Dougie I love him.” Dougie is what my uncle used to call my dad. Whether it was my brain trying to reconcile what had happened, or something far more powerful, I felt I obliged to tell my dad about the dream. The message really touched him. For truly, my dad has lost a soulmate. Someone he had known and loved forever. I can’t imagine what that must feel like.

So, I put forth to you, everyone who reads this blog, to tell someone today that you love them. Whether it is your chosen family or blood family, tell them how you feel. Our time is so fleeting here and you don’t know if you’ll ever get the chance to say it again.

As I finish up writing this, I’ve just received news that my husband’s mother has been rushed to the hospital. We don’t know what is wrong but thinking back, I can’t really remember that last time I saw her. Was it Christmas? Was it that long ago? Luckily, an errand brought my husband to her house only two days ago. He said she was so full of life and excitement. I’ve lit a candle for her and I will be sending loving thoughts to her side.

If you think you have all the time in the world, you may be right, but you also may be wrong. So why take a chance? Even if it’s a text, a quick phone call, a little note you drop in the mail…don’t be embarrassed and don’t let time be an excuse.

To the memory of my uncle Jeff, rest in peace and I’ll miss you.


UPDATE: My husband’s mother is alright. She fainted after her blood pressure dropped. The doctors think it was due to stress but say she should be fine. What a relief.