Family extended

Our extended family gathered for my mother’s funeral. And what an extended family it is. I could not have imagined this kind of family gathering back when I was a child surrounded with my primarily German-English heritage family. Today it covers multiple ethnicities, racial categories, national origins, as well as ages, seeing ourselves as a family.  I recall one of my grandmother’s relatives telling me as a young adult of her concern about adopted children as they were not “related by blood” and therefore could not  be a “real part of the family.”

Looking around the recent gathering I knew in my bones it is not blood lines that make a family. It is not the genetic material that determines family. Gathered there were a number of people with very different experiences of family. Some of our extended family members know what it is like to be a cherished family member in the family into which they were born. Yet others in our wide extended family have not been as well acknowledged or supported by their “blood” relatives as the acceptance and caring they found in the family they joined. Conversely some have been warmly welcomed into an extended family while others have not really been accepted into the fabric of a family entered via marriage. But we are all family related to one another by blood, and/or by caring, and/or by legal definition.

Gathered around our family tables are people who are Indo-European, Asian, Hispanic, Caribbean, and Central American in origin. They are family not because of their genetics but because of the love and caring that brought them together, the support they give one another, and the commitments made and lived out – even during life’s rough patches.

Family is about relationship not blood. It is about love, not law. It is about how we choose to treat those with whom we live.

Our ability to look beyond genetics has gotten better over my 6 decades and as I look at these United Nations generations assembled to entrust Mom to God’s care and keeping I am filled with hope. Hope that the biases I was exposed to in my growing up have lessened. Generation by generation we are beginning to simply see people as individuals, accept their giftedness and incorporate them into this living relationship thing we call a family. It is what I was taught at home – it is what I have tried somewhat successfully to live, and it is what I see coming almost naturally to this next generation.  Thanks be to God.


About don

The Rev Don Hill is an Episcopal priest, rail fan and writer. He and his wife the Rev. Dr. Nancy Woodworth-Hill are currently Co-Pastors of St Paul's Episcopal Church, Jeffersonville IN, in the Diocese of Indianapolis. They also work as parish consultants in Appreciative Inquiry, strategic planning and spirituality development for parishes and vestries.
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