The Importance of family

In the movie Antwone Fisher, the main character is on track to

get kicked out of the Navy for belligerence and disrespect for
authority when the Navy shrink (Denzel Washington) steps in.

Turns out Antwone’s (Derek Luke) father was killed before he
was born and his mother never claimed him. Growing up in the
care of abusive foster parents he carried the shame and guilt of
being unwanted.

Urged by Denzel Washington’s character, Antwone sets out to
find his family and ask why no one ever came for him. There
comes a scene at the end of the movie where Antwone discovers his
Father’s family and he’s welcomed by a mini-mob of cousins and
auntie’s and uncles.

In that one moment he’s surrounded by love, his wounds are
healed and for the first time he feels he really belongs to a
group simply because of who he is. And I cried.

Family gives a sense of self

In this Christmas season, the first without my father, I feel for the very first time the importance of family.

My siblings and other family and friends all have this web of relatives that give them their sense of
self, a sense of self that I think is often only appreciated when
it’s gone.

Many of the children of my contemporaries are now considering
or already in college and I feel the pride and love of their
parents; I also feel pangs of regret that I didn’t have kids two
decades ago.

Security in numbers

I understand for the first time the insistence of my mother—and
many of the elders who have now passed—to have my own family.

There’s a strange sense of yourself not only belonging to
something, but also of living on (after you’re gone) with family.
Family gives you a sense of meaning, legacy and perhaps even
immortality.

And the more of them you have the greater that sense seems to
be.

Interest and aliveness

Having children bringing their friends, their spouses and their spouses’ families raises the level of activity and aliveness

in a home that stands in stark contrast to a ho-hum I notice in
my life now.

I see the spontaneity, interest, and fun that comes from just
the traffic and life collisions that family can bring into your
life.

What a sense of life.

And I find myself wanting that. All the money in the world is
of no use without family to share and experience it with, and
even those families who have no financial wealth are often happy
because of their experience of themselves as family.

Family brings pain and sorrow too

Of course, there are many examples of severely dysfunctional
families, and tragedies that bring pain and sorrow that can’t be
healed.

My step sister lost her only child, my mother has lost her
soul-mate and I have lost a father figure that can never be
replaced.

When you’ve experienced loss like these, the pain and
sorrow becomes part of who you are and you experience life with a
sense of weight that I don’t think you can ever really throw
off.

I can now see how people say that they have nothing left to
live for, and how that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

And I guess one must accept the good with the bad. It’s really
better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all
and I think my pangs of regret come from a sense of never having
my own family to love.

There are other ways to experience family

Which I guess brings one to the question of for what reason does one live, why are you here?

For some people it is family, to raise children and help them raise theirs. And for some it’s to contribute to the wider community.

Maybe that’s the same thing.

Maybe giving your life in service of others, helping people get more out of their lives is another way of experiencing family.

When I look at all of the broken family relationships and old folks homes where aged and broken people have no relatives to
even come and visit them, I think that for many people it’s just as hard to have the true experience of family with your family as
it is with strangers.

I guess that’s another way of saying that having a family is no guarantee of having the experience of family.

Like everything in life that is of value, you have to work for it.

Maybe it’s not too late and perhaps I will experience family in
some unorthodox way. Would be consistent with how I’ve lived my
life so far. 😉

All the best to you and yours for 2012.

Any thoughts? Contributions/acknowledgments welcome.