I didn’t know we were family

It’s been a rough year around here. And those of you who follow me (thank you so much!), I’m sure you’ve noticed I haven’t been posting nearly as often as I used to. This last year my emotions have been so raw it’s hard to write and on top of that I am extremely empathetic. If you hurt, I hurt. Even if I don’t know you and I see you cry, it’s a safe bet I’ll be crying, too.

A few weeks ago, Facebook came out with a new feature. It wasn’t the thumbs down button we have all been asking for, but it was five (I think) different choices on top of the “like” button. And I am a child of the 90s, I am (on the upper edge) in the generation that was just young enough to get Facebook and MySpace and live journal (if you know how I can get my hands on my live journal these days I’d love to have those words!), but old enough to not ruin my life on social media.

All of these extra options on Facebook seemed so silly to me when they came out. All we asked for was a thumbs down. And I’m old enough, I don’t even know what all those faces stand for. I know that there is a heart for love (over like?) and a laughing out loud one and a sad one. I’m not sure what the other faces are for.

That sad face. The one with the tears and when you press on it, it says sad. That is the face I have used the most these last few days. Well, let’s be honest. These last 24 hours have been the saddest. I can’t even count the times I’ve pressed that sad face today.

We all love in groups. You have those closest to you and then like a ripple when you through a stone in the water your love expands. And you love every ripple, but maybe you love that first ripple more than the fifth or maybe you love all those ripples and can’t even tell the difference between them. I have always known who is in my first ripple. My first ripple is full of all the people who cried with me when Grandpa John died. It is family and friends who should be family.

That first ripple is all I did (could) focus on when Grandpa died. Those were the people who hurt with me. Those were the people who understood what he meant to me. Those were the ones that clung to me as I grieved.

Today I learned about the other rings. Those people who joked around with me. Those people who bought me a drink when we were hanging out. Those people who served me a drink or two too many and then walked me home because they love me and need me to be safe, and I’m safe with them.  Those people who get a kick out of me when I’m not at my best. Those people who aren’t blood but are better and closer to me than some that are blood.

Today we lost a mother. And while I am so close with her husband and son (they are some of my favorite people), I am not blood. And maybe it sounds bad to say, but before today I didn’t know we were family. I didn’t know how much I loved them. I didn’t know how much they meant to me and how much their pain would hurt me.

Oh my goodness. That’s not what I meant. Or maybe it is. I have this group of people, and I have known for a long time that I love them. What I didn’t know before today was how much I loved them. I always thought it was like anyone loves their friends, (although I have little experience with this as well. I have one forever friend (I’m looking at you, Cassidy!). And then today, my friends lost their mother, I thought they were fifth ripple friends, and then I learned they really are first or second ripple friends.

Now, biologically she was only the mother to one of my friends. However, by love she was the mother to most of the people who I am friends with today. I think of that group of kids that were around when I was young. They called my mom Ratmom because there were so many that loved her. Shirley was the Ratmom of my new group of friends.

There are people who lost their mom young, there are people who never knew their mom, there are people whose mom just gave up on them. And Shirley was there for all of them. It didn’t matter if you needed a mom as a child or as an adult, Shirley would be your mom. It didn’t even matter if you thought you didn’t need a mom. If Shirley thought you needed a mom, you got one in her.  And tonight, so many more than she birthed are mourning the loss of their mom.

Tonight I had the chance to look at all these “kids” in a different light. This is my family. I didn’t know before tonight how much I loved every single one of these people. We all come from different places and backgrounds, but when you put us all in the same room, you can’t tell a difference. This is family.

Maybe in this family, I am the third cousin twice removed. But I’m still family. And they are still family. And I would do anything to keep them from the pain they are feeling tonight. But what I can do is laugh with them, and cry with them. We can tell stories and talk nonsense. We will come up with a plan to take care of Dad (this is so familiar and again I am so grateful Grandma has us to ground her).

It seems so silly, but I didn’t know this was family until today. I had no idea how much I loved these people until the pain was knocking on our door. When we (because I know my husband feels it more than I do) say, “is there anything we can do?” What we mean is, cry on our shoulder. Let us buy you a beer. Just know we hurt so much and aren’t blood but wish there was anything we could do. And then remember that the one thing I knew about Shirley was that blood didn’t matter at all.

Those that are family, those that love us, those that we love, remember that every tear you cry, we cry with you. We feel every pain. And maybe it doesn’t make your pain less, but where she is now, there is no pain.

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