Thinking about a new definition of family

By Karel Ancona-Henry

Today is Family Day, which got me to thinking about family.

I come from a very big family and, thanks to a divorce, am the oldest of seven daughters, most of whom I have either no or little contact with.

What I have learned as I've journeyed through life, is that family in the traditional sense - those you are directly related to, often have very little or no understanding of one another.

Sometimes it's healthier to end those seemingly mandatory ties. Or to have the relationship never expecting to get from it what you really think you need - approval, acceptance, etc.

What I also know is that I have created a family: A circle as the saying goes, of friends who understand and love me unconditionally.

Without them, my life would not be complete.

I asked my aunt once how come she wasn't my mother. We are two peas in a pod, with absolute understanding emotionally and spiritually, of the other.

She laughed and said, "You already know the answer to that, Karel."

And I laughed, too, because I understood what she was saying.

I believe, on a soul level, before we arrive on earth, we choose certain things in life that will teach us that which we are to learn in this lifetime.

The long and short of that was choosing my parents, which is really like marriage - for better or worse. As I've gotten older, I have been able to stand back and see what I was to learn, what I was to teach and how, coming from this belief, I have better honored my own children. I've been willing to learn from them as much as teach them.

Connections on earth transcend our understanding of those connections most of the time.

Long ago, a friend asked me, "If it's the pilot's time to go, is it really everybody's time to go?" All I can think is that all those souls, seemingly unconnected on earth, at some point agreed to share that experience.

My family of friends are kind of like that. We are inextricably linked by our spiritual understanding of the world and that which goes beyond. Our beliefs resonate in harmony and even though we may share different views on politics, shopping and what constitutes a wise vehicle purchase, on the issues that really count, we're seamless.

Some I've known since high school or college, others from work, a party or the produce department at the grocery store. I've found that family can arrive from darn near anywhere.

We can always count on each other. For support or encouragement. For words of wisdom, a belly laugh or to cry our eyes out. For a good stiff shot of tequila or kick in the butt, if need be. Knowing that at the end of every joy, every trauma life brings, we'll be stronger and hopefully wiser for it.

We are of different religious upbringings, different races, different social classes. Some have walked a road of righteousness and some have had to climb back to the road from the depths of really bad choices. But we're all standing here together, respecting and honoring the dignity of the other.

That's my family.

How blessed I am.

• Karel Ancona-Henry can be reached at or at 246-4000.


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