I recently attended the funeral of a family friend. She was the matriarch of a family that I considered to be my own second family when I moved to Toronto. I lived with them for a month before I found a place of my own. The family had five boys who were like brothers to me, and who treated my parents as if they were their own. We frequently visited each other in the summers, travelling between Montreal and Toronto. The family was large. There was also a set of nine cousins in Montreal, and another set of six cousins here in Toronto, and I knew them all.

When I moved to Toronto on my own, the mother made sure all her boys looked after me, and always included me in their own family gatherings. After I moved out on my own, I’d slowly lost my connection. The parents would always come for a visit whenever my mom came to town. The mother had been in poor health for some time and I often was saddened by how frail she’d become each time I saw her.

The funeral home visitation was the first time I’d seen so many of the family in over ten years; most of them I had not seen since my own wedding. It was really wonderful to reconnect with everyone. You know how they say you can quickly regain a connection with a good friend even if you haven’t seen him or her in many years? That’s how it felt. It felt like home. Because I did not come from a large family, and the only set of blood cousins I did have were not close, I don’t think I really ever understood family connection. It’s at moments like funeral visitations and services that you realize who the important people are in your life, even when you don’t see them in ten years.

That’s why you have to hang on to family. If you are lucky enough to have many cousins and aunts and uncles, realize that these are the people who will really be there for you when times are rough – this is when they will close ranks and protect you, when you need it most. Family is binding. It’s just unfortunate that it takes a death to remind us of that.