In part maybe because I’m middle aged, and in part maybe because I’m a cancer survivor, I’ve been recently counting my blessings. I get nostalgic sometimes. When I count my blessings, the richest blessings in my life have all been people.
My husband has loved me unconditionally for the past 23 years. He has loved me more than I think anyone else in my life ever has, he is my life’s greatest blessing. I am also blessed to have very close relationships with both of my amazing daughters. They are people I love spending time with and that I would admire and love even if they weren’t my children. They teach me a lot.
I have a wonderfully strong and inspiring mother. I also have three amazing sisters who are also inspirational to me. They all supported me so much even from a distance when I was diagnosed and going through cancer treatment.
And of course all of my husband’s family, who have also been true family to me for decades and who were such a great support to me, especially through my cancer experience.
I left home at a young age and haven’t lived near my family of origin since age 17, but when I think of it, I have always been surrounded by “family”.
Richard and Dorothy were like adopted parents to me from the time I left home. They were a middle-aged couple I met when they came into a restaurant where I waitressed at age 17. She said I looked just like her daughter, who lived about 4 hours away from them. When I mentioned my parents lived equally far from me, we decided to adopt each other. We became family and played penny anny poker every Friday night, canned tomatoes together, we talked, we ate dinner together often and we spent holidays together. Their home was my second home. Though they are no longer living, they gave me many good memories of times we shared.
My father-in-law at that time and I also became very close. We fished together, worked on finishing wood together, had coffee together and talked every week. I loved him a lot. He also passed many years ago.
I had a very elderly neighbor I adopted and helped when I was 18, Anna. She taught me so much about character and what it was like to live on a limited income as a blind amputee. I have since respected the aged because of her and have adopted elderly neighbors as family ever since. I try to be the family they need as I hope my mother’s neighbors are also family to her. Anna taught me that life is a circle, we all need to be each other’s family especially in this day and age when many don’t live near biological family.
And there’s Art, my other “adopted” dad. I met him when I worked at a soup kitchen. He is a man in his 80s who is active and giving and independent. He comes by my house often for coffee, we listen to each other, we support each other, he helps me if I have a problem. He is a grandfather to my kids and never forgets theirs or my birthday. He listens to me. He gives me a hug every time I see him.
I have a best friend of 28 years who has been there and shared every important event in my life for almost 3 decades. We knew each other when we dated our prospective husbands for the first time, we stood up in each other’s weddings, we raised our kids together, and are becoming empty nesters together. We’ve shared together college experiences, work and personal struggles and faith journeys almost our entire adult lives.
And I feel the same sense of family now with the many I communicate with who are diagnosed with cancer. We are all related, not by blood, but by disease. We share a lot. The same fears, the same anger, the same physical, emotional and financial struggles, the same sense of hope and the same sense of loss. We can say “you know how I feel” and we always do. I am inspired by so many I’ve met with this diagnosis. I have learned so much from them as I continue my own journey. I have been blessed to be part of the cancer community.
So, I was thinking of how rich my life has been. Rich in the best way. Rich in relationships. Rich in people.
There is no greater wealth.