Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Who is 'family'?

With Christmas nearly upon us, our thoughts inevitably turn to family. But whom do you consider to be 'family'? Is it just your blood relatives?

Many of us have close friends who are just as dear to us as 'family'. I had an 'Aunty' Thelma (a close friend of the family) who treated my sister and myself as kindly as any blood relative would have done, perhaps more so, as she didn't have any children of her own. She died a little while ago, at the grand old age of 93, and I was inspired to write the following poem for her funeral:

Two young girls,
honorary nieces
of a friend called Nick,
showered unfailingly
every birthday and Christmas
with cards and presents,
wonderful delights for childhood eyes.
Even into adulthood and beyond,
for near half a century,
though bodily ills rob her
of energy and activity,
no birthday or Christmas is forgot.
No blood aunt could have shown
more love or compassion,
greater thoughtfulness or kindness
or a heart steadier or more generous.
No relative could have given
greater cheerfulness or warmth
on visits to that cottage
of ancient charm,
nestling in Hampshire countryside
of verdant green,
feeding the soul with beauty,
peace and calm.
Memories of a woman tall and fashionable,
with happiness of heart
and lightness of smile,
of unceasing strength and dignity
as the lengthening years took their toll,
will most surely gladden the heart
in the days that are to come,
filling it with gratitude and thanks
for a wonderful soul,
freed now from physical bonds
and enriching eternity
with its infinite grace
and endless charity.
Thank you, Aunty Thelma,
for thinking of us so kindly
through all the many years,
for touching our hearts
with zest and joy -
we will never forget you,
as evidenced by our smiling tears.
Copyright © Helena Harper

If 'strangers' can grow as close to us as 'family', then - surely - all of mankind should be considered as potential family and we should treat them as such. What do you think?

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