Over the last six or so years since my parents died, and some major changes happened in my life, I’ve come to realize the true value and meaning of friendship. When you lose all of your immediate family, your sense of family undeniably changes.
For most of my life, I’ve always had a small, but close group of friends. As one who is somewhat introverted, I’ve never been one to have a lot of friends. In elementary and high school, it was usually a close group of around four to six friends, with different people entering and leaving the picture at various times. I’ve always been very particular about who I consider to be a friend, who I trust; and those who are my true friends are people I would go to the mat for at any time.
As I grew older, and my family relocated to another city shortly after I finished high school, I lost touch with my friends from those days. In college, it was a completely new circle that surrounded me, some of whom I remain in close contact with, others I’ve lost touch with. Since I attended Principia College–a college that only admits Christian Scientists as students, it’s been my college friends who’ve also left Christian Science whom I have tended to remain closer to, although some who remain in Christian Science also remain close and supportive.
Now, friends have filled some of the holes left in my life from the deaths of family members. My Dad was someone I would go to for almost any sort of advice, and there was rarely anything I wouldn’t talk to him about. Now, there are various people in my current circle of friends who fill that role in various ways, depending on what I’m dealing with. Then, there are others who simply give me the comfort of their presence in my life, much the way my mother was.
Family is not necessarily limited to those with whom you share DNA. I know a few people who had less than ideal childhoods who will have nothing to do with their ‘blood’ families, and instead surround themselves with close friends who are their ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’, and I’m proud to be a ‘brother’ to more than a few friends like this. I am grateful that I did have a healthy and close relationship with my family, and continue to do so with my aunts, uncles, and cousins.
For me, since I no longer have immediate family, I have come to deeply value the friendships that have filled the voids left by my parents’ deaths. Never limit your definition of family. You’ll miss out on something wonderful if you do.