Chosen family

There is a lot of powerful good in my life right at the moment. The most amazing of all is that I have been recently welcomed into the arms of a family I didn’t know I had.

My friend Romain is a priest from Rwanda. When we first met a few years ago, I told him my knowledge of Africa was poor, and could he please help me understand where Rwanda is. “It’s right next to Burundi!” he answered.

We met because we were both in the International Mediation program at Brandeis. This is rapidly becoming a well-known international place to study peace negotiations, considering that the program is brand new. My class mates were from around the world, and helped me immensely in understanding different ways to understand a situation and different ways to negotiate. Further, they helped me understand some universals – that music and art can often be a way to speak to those who can’t communicate in any other way. My hard core conservative side is still in doubt of this concept, but sharing this idea with friends whom I trust has made it a little easier for me to believe, while I still don’t get how painting pictures can bring about peace in the world. It reinforces what April has been demonstrating for me for a decade.

Anyway, Romain is Tutsi. In 1994 sixteen of his family members were killed on one day by supporters of the new regime and the Hutu majority. He is the only one left. His dedication to, and love for, humanity inspired him to love even more, when that amount of violence could have inspired others to hate. He told me that his tragedy led him to the mediation program at Brandeis. While I have known him, he has not spoken often of his pain. He has a quick smile and an eager mind hoping for new information and new friends at every opportunity. I had known him for a year before I found out the story of his family, when I was an audience member at an international peace conference he was speaking at.

The day it happened was April 21st. He sent me an email on that day this month, telling me of his tradition. He said that on that day, rather than mourn, he thinks about whom he considers to be his current family, and thinks of what he loves about his family today. Then he told me that he thinks of me as his family now.

You must understand how deeply that touched me. I do not feel as though I am worthy of such a great love, and such great symbolism. I feel a huge responsibility and a huge connection. I hadn’t noticed before how powerful family is when you choose them. I have chosen family members already – those who are “Uncle” or “cousin” or even “Mom” – because of our mutual affection for each other, but for some reason it was Romain who showed me clearly that chosen family is an intense bond with someone.

I am grateful for this honor, and I am grateful for all of you who are my real family and my chosen family, and my dear friends who are as loved as any family member.

Comments from the old blog:


Thank you for sharing this lovely aspect of your life. I’m glad I took the time tonight to come see if you’ve shared anything recently. I haven’t been at Gaia in weeks so I hoped there might be something from you.

You know I am having a similar experience with chosen family as I grow into the tribe that has suddenly sprung up to hold me. My real family is about to descend for Isaiah’s graduation and I know it will be my tribe who will get me through the discomfort of everyone being together for the first time since my wedding and our first time with mom since her last melt down. Anyway, I am experiencing a belongingness like I’ve never known before with this family of friends. It’s positively wonderful.

while I still don’t get how painting pictures can bring about peace in the world. It reinforces what April has been demonstrating for me for a decade.

It’s my pleasure to be of service. : )

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