It’s a soothing thought. That no matter what, our family will hold us in a soft and loving way, be there to support us, and love us for who we are.
It seems like for many of us, family is something different. Our family members most likely love us but in a way that may or may not be helpful and encouraging. For many of us, these lines from the show Modern Family are more fitting:
Cam: “You have to call your sister for help.”
Mitchell: “No, she’ll be judgmental and condescending.”
Cam: “Mitchell, she is family. Of course she’s going to be judgmental and condescending.”
This reality doesn’t mean we don’t love our family, we do. It just means they may not be the “family” referred to in the other, more complimentary phrase. We may have to look farther than our parents and siblings to find the family of our dreams.
In my books, Dancing with Detective Danger and Always and Forever Love, the heroines, sisters Sterling and Lacey Aegar, have had their family ripped away from them at a young age. As adults, they’ve felt the closeness of each other and leaned on each other for the things we all hope to find in family. But the longing for more has haunted them. They each have their individual coping mechanisms for dealing with the life circumstances they have.
In Always and Forever Love, Lacey is living a type of reality that gives her the sense of love, protection, and bliss that she lost when her husband, Nicholas, died. His embodied spirit has returned and she wants nothing more in life than to continue to have him around, even if it means living a small life. But because Nicholas loves her, he wants to help her see beyond her fears and overwhelming feeling of loss to embrace new possibilities.
Nicholas set his eyes, the color of crystal blue quartz, on Lacey. “Tell me about Jackson.”
Her heart clenched. “I don’t want to talk about him. The only two men in my life are Tyler and you.” She wanted the traffic driving by to distract him but she suspected his attention was elsewhere.
“You forget, I’m dead. I’m just a ghost. I can’t even keep you warm on a cool summer evening.” The wind flowing in through the open window lifted strands of Nick’s ash-blond, wavy hair. His face turned to savor the breeze, and he looked every bit alive enough to Lacey.
“You make me happy. It’s as simple as that.” She reached for Nick’s hand. He took hers in his, brought her fingers to his lips, and brushed them with a kiss. She savored the feel of his lips, never taking his very solid presence for granted.
“You deserve more, Lacey. You’re young, you’re alive. I’m not. Not in the same sense you are.”
His pressure on her to consider different options than the perfectly lovely and satisfying one she had with him made her stop breathing. “Stop.” She let out her breath as she turned into the parking garage across the street from the Aegar Investigations office. “You are alive. Just not in a way anyone would get. I do. And I get you. And if that means I get you as a ghost, as you put it, I’m grateful.”
“Okay.” He rubbed her cheek and gave her an easy smile. “I’m not going to complain about being with you as much as you like. He turned away and disappeared—to wherever it was he went. But Lacey felt more than knew that Nicholas was holding something back.
Nicholas is clear that it is Lacey’s choice to live a small life or allow herself to believe that she can have a new love, one that is healthier than the one she’s been living. In order to do that, though, Lacey has to be willing to see that a loving relationship can happen with another person, not just Nicholas. She has to consider redefining what will bring her the life she wants, one that is vibrant and full of love and the enrichment of a healthy family.
Lacey is a fictional character and her life is what I make it. But her journey to find support and companionship and meaningful engagement with supportive and loving people is a very real opportunity life brings us all. We just have to see the opportunity in expanding the definition of family to encompass people in general who offer meaningful relationships.
May you have the warmth of family – whoever that includes – this holiday season.
What does family mean to you?