Forever Family

You’ve heard the expression, ” you can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family”-‘ no truer words have ever been spoken! Sometimes, friends become our family instead, or you happen to be blessed with both the biological version and those who we choose to call “family”. In our case, we are most fortunate to have both a wonderful large extended family and a special group of friends who are just like family too.

I am one of 4 children and my husband is one of 5. Brian has 23 first cousins between both of our families and several more great cousins, second cousins, plus numerous aunts and uncles! They reside anywhere from 20 minutes away, to Australia, and everywhere in between! We don’t see our extended family as often as we would like to, but when we do, it really feels like we have arrived home. I’m so happy for Brian that he has the love and support of our families, particularly as an only child. We had hoped at one time that Brian would have had a sibling, but a miscarriage was our sign that this was not meant to be. In retrospect, everything ultimately worked out for the best, but it took time to come to this place of acceptance and grace. I am reminded every October of our angel who is in Heaven, who I will look forward to meeting one day… The heartache never quite goes away, as I still think every anniversary of what could have been, but it’s comforting to know that Brian will always have a guardian angel on his shoulder, along with many other loved ones in our extended families who have left this earth for eternal life.

Yesterday, we met our beautiful great niece, Charlotte, from Connecticut, along with our adorable great nephew, Max, from Australia, for the first time. It was a terrific celebration of family and fun! We loved holding these precious new family members and were reminded of how the strong bonds of love and faith are the glue that truly hold us all together. We may be separated by distance and time, but we are never far from one another in spirit. Plus social media is a huge help in keeping up with everyone’s progress! I am always amazed how our conversations with family continue, just like we were together the day before, and yesterday was no exception.

It was also so heartwarming to see Brian engage, observe,and enjoy the time with his Grandma, aunts, uncles, and cousins. He even used an unfamiliar bathroom with no problem, which is a milestone in itself! Brian has come a very long way from our first family events from years ago, where we often had to leave a venue after a short period of time because of severe sensory issues to sound, light, etc. Those times were so hard and added to our feelings of sadness, frustration, and isolation- I know many of you can relate! Now, our Brian can walk into a crowded room with gregarious family members like yesterday, and not be phased in the least by the sensory overload- we are so proud of him! It also feels so good for Jim and I now to have that ability to converse freely with our family, without the constant worry that Brian may melt down at any moment. Of course, Moms will always have eyes in the back of their heads to watch ( as well as excellent hearing specifically for their children) to make sure that their kids are OK, it’s just who we are! 🤣

The importance of our kids being “connected” with others, whether family or close friends, shouldn’t be underestimated. All humans are relational beings; it is the way we were created and especially those close relationships that we forge with others, give us strength, and often add meaning to our lives. Our special children have the same requirements and flourish when they know people care for them and love them. While education and vocational training is very important for our kids to learn (to the best of their abilities), social interactions are just as important, perhaps even more so. The ability to get along with others in social and work settings is probably one of the most important skills for any of us to learn. I see this as Brian’s greatest strength and would like for him to have opportunities to further develop this skill, hence the various activities that we expose Brian to, with the hope that he will also learn other skills along the way. Slowly, but surely, he continues to make his progress…

At the end of our lives here on earth, I don’t think it will really matter much on that final day how many possessions we accumulated, how smart we were, or what we accomplished during our time here. While these things are certainly admirable, in the end, it will be our families and friends who will be our most prized treasures. I know this is definitely how Brian looks at life based on his reactions to the people who mean so much to him. He is curiously indifferent to material things, has no agenda, and only wants to love and be loved- isn’t that the greatest gift of all that any one of us can truly hope for? I think Brian definitely has the right idea!

Until we meet again, thanks for reading!

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