As I write this post, a dear friend of mine, someone I have "adopted" as chosen family, is fighting the ravages of lung cancer and pneumonia in a Memphis hospital and not expected to live through the night.
Trudy is a family member I only met three years ago - a woman who has had songs written about her, has brought laughter and guffaws from her storytelling, and whose shoulders I have leaned on at several times. And now, when I need a shoulder to cry on, I can't cry on hers...
Friends are your chosen family. They are the folks that you choose to be in the trenches with you; the folks that you choose to celebrate your success with.
You can choose the mother you never had. A friend that will always nurture you. The first one to consider your feelings when you call to talk about a run-in you had with your boss.
You can choose the perfect brother. Someone who will tell you the truth without mincing words. You know you can turn to this person when you feel like lying to yourself because they won't, but they are always in your corner, there to help you grow.
You can choose the perfect father. Someone who has your back, but calls you on your BS.
You can choose the perfect sister. The friend you call up to catch the latest movie or take a road trip. She's fun, energetic, and always there for a good time.
Some friends come into your life for six months just to help you through a hard time. They don't know anything about the story and they can offer a fresh perspective.
Others are around for a lifetime. They know your every nuance. They can tell you why you made the decisions you did if you begin to question them.
Great friends keep you grounded and help you fly.
A chosen family is composed of sisters of the heart, brothers of the soul, and stand-in mothers and fathers who are companions and guides through the rollercoaster of ups and downs in life. They are the people who we choose to spend time with, not necessarily those we are born into.
Our chosen family members are not just capable, but also willing to be constants in an ever-shifting world, assisting us in that which we cannot do alone, or at least that which we would prefer not to do alone. These are the people in our lives who we choose to love and who can give us that love and support we desire in return, without all the mess and guilt that comes sometimes with blood ties and birthrights. I'm talking about connection, shared circumstances and intersecting life-journeys.
These are the people we spend holidays with; the people we share moments with -- births and deaths, dinners and wine, conversation and coffee.
Some of them come, some of them remain, and some of them move on. But these are the people who, no matter the length of time between visits, you can call and feel like no time has passed or whom you can visit and blend right into their world. We lean on these people in ways we cannot lean on our parents and siblings and we share with them things our blood families might never understand.
We cannot choose the family we are born into -- not really. Though we are perhaps born into the exact family we are supposed to be born into, for whatever lessons we're supposed to learn, we cannot be expected to get everything we need in terms of support and love from those bloodlines.
And though we should not stop loving our blood family, we can also seek out the people who are the family we wish we had and give and receive all that there is to offer, growing ever-wiser in the process.
Knowing Trudy has been a gift in my life, and from her I do believe I have grown just a bit wiser. In fact, I think that is her gift to many of her "chosen" family, and it is with great pride that I count myself among them. And it is with great humility, that I pause today to think of her and to be grateful for the lessons I have learned from her.