It is February and among the many happenings globally, the one day that is commonly recognized worldwide is Valentine’s Day. Declarations of undying love, hearts that hope of promises, hearts that are lonely, revelations of broken hearts, separations, unions, in or out of love, February is the month when merchants sell 144 million cards, 35 million boxes of chocolate, and 320 million roses, generating nearly $20 billion in consumer spending contradicting the romantic notion that love is free. But I am not a cynic. I do believe that love is free. It starts with Family.
Family is where we learn the value of love, trust, hope, belief, cultures, traditions and all that in essence give depth and meaning to our lives. It is where we belong and from where our identity originates. It is those with whom we grew up and created a bond from our beginning years. It is those whom we talk to or reminisce about in our adult years. It is those whom we seek in our ending years.
I love family. I’ve come to realize I’ve always loved them. Perhaps it’s because I grew up surrounded by a family of relatives who were close knit and who never missed an opportunity to come together, share the table, tell stories, and give their opinion. My siblings and I, we were children then, just passing time while aunts and uncles came over for an evening or a Sunday lunch after church. Mama was a fine cook with a gourmet palate who could easily prepare meals that fed the standard 8, or on celebratory or festive occasions, 70 family members. Watching her and experiencing the family dynamics as children, we didn’t know we were building memories that were to become the most distilled and meaningful truth in our lives…learning that in the end when the trappings of life dissolve, all that is left is love. And we return to family because we live our lives in our families. The families we are born into, the families we create, the families we make through our choosing of friends. This is where we find meaning and this is where we define our purpose. Family is where we first experience love. It is where we first receive it and where we first give it.
As with any collection of people, family is not perfect. Members have their quirks, and like most folk, they may not always agree about things, but family is their foundation of strength.
At a recent gathering of peers, a young friend expressed that his family was in the midst of arguments with one another. Sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews, cousins, parents, young and old were in disagreement and some were not on talking terms. Yet, in one of their darker moments, these were the people who came together because of a shared history of family, a long lasting relationship that held a bond with each other as they gathered around a remembrance celebration of their grandmother. I was amazed that even in their silence grown apart, together, their human souls manifested the family foundation of strength. With all their quirks, they were family.
Just yesterday, an acquaintance of mine shared a photo she had found of her young brother taken 47 years ago before he and the entire family would be separated. The brother passed away two years after the photo had been shot. A single photo, a memory of separation, refreshes a bond of love… a safe harbor in which to retreat. It revives and unites even in the silence of death.
I know of a grandmother whose heart was drawn and tugged toward a stranger sitting across the aisle of a crowded bus in a foreign city. Both she and the stranger had felt an inexplicable fast vibration of their hearts. They had connected to find that they were long lost siblings separated fifty years ago. The heart knows. Family love vibrates.
Some families will thrive more than others. Some families may fail in their objectives, while others succeed. Some families are very close and get on famously well, while others lose touch. Regardless of the nature of your relationship with your inherited or chosen family members, they are an extension of you and the foundation of your strength in love. This Valentine’s Day, return to the family of people that first taught you what love is and feel your heart’s fast vibrations. May they resonate across families of nations.
P.S. Some chocolate and flowers are always welcome!