Sep 17·edited Sep 17

The interesting thing about strangers is you never really know just what kind of impact they’ll have on your life. You won’t know if one day thirty years from now you’ll recall a brief conversation with a stranger that magically changed the way you viewed how an aspect of the world worked. In every chance encounter, we have the option of being open and receptive to strangers with whom we come in contact. Or we can be closed and unavailable, wrapped up in the preoccupations of our own lives. A chance encounter is the ultimate serendipity, an accident of happy coincidence or good fortune. Such encounters do not occur every day, but they do happen. And yes, they have the capacity to completely transform or alter your life. My closest and most loved family are not my blood, they were all once strangers who I took a chance on and together we learned there are just some souls that are connected in unexplainable ways. Three and a half years ago, the true love of my life, then just a random stranger in a coffee shop, turned and looked at me with his beautiful smile when I walked in the door and I instantly knew there was a connection and I said yes to a chai tea and conversation on the patio for the next couple of hours. Sometimes, there is no explanation for what initially attracts souls to one another, other than the universe pulling strings together, but it is undeniable and it is love.

I am grateful every day for my chosen family, your kindred souls. And I love y’all!

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I love y’all dude. I’m so happy to be a branch on your beautiful family tree.

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As I have been thinking often recently about identity and who I really am at the core...

As I ancestry.com people to death trying to prove roots and branches...

As I seek to relate and belong...

Sometimes just BE-ing opens the windows of my shuttered mind to see who I am and where I belong and how my jigsaw piece of existence coincides with those around me...

Family is...being.

That’s it...when family comes to mind, of course, my kiddos and my parents will always have a seat at that table...but family is so much more and you are right - blood doesn’t have to matter.

When we “be” and others “be” - the forest of family trees become interwoven canopies of shade & shelter and rugged root systems to weather the strongest storms.

Tyler - thanx for letting me be a chaser of this common light reflected and refracted thru prisms the universe over...

and, maybe to you, there in the shadow today, a sliver of this light will cut thru the dark and offer just a moment of respite and place where you can just be and feel welcomed - the door is open.

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Oh Tyler. I love this Haiku. It made me cry, in a good way. I will purchase that little piece of paper and hang it on my wall. I will probably tattoo those words on my body. Because they are a part of my soul. I will translate them into Spanish and I will tell them to my children and my grandchildren every single day. As these words define our love, our bond, our chosen family.

As I listened to this upon waking, I instantly thought of all my sisters that this life has brought to me. This summer I was able to get home to Canada and visit almost all of my chosen sisters. In three different provinces, from three different decades, I got to reconnect with the people who fill my heart and recharge my soul and have been there for me in all my most important moments. I am Auntie Heather to their children and no matter what, I will always be there for them and them for me.

But as we reached the end of your reading, I realized that this essay holds so true for my chosen family here in Guatemala. My children who have been through so much and have had to learn to trust and love after facing trauma and abandonment. I struggle to find the words to describe the feeling I get when they chose me to be there for them and take that sacred role of being a mother to them. I realized as I listened to your poem, that I am the roots of our tree. I get to provide the trunk that their beautiful branches grow out and up upon. It makes my heart burst with pride and love. I am humbled that I have been chosen by these incredible humans to play such an important role in their lives.

This past week we had a lot of presentations to celebrate Guatemalan Independence Day at our school. I was joining the kids at lunch on Friday when one of the girls asked me "what was I to Maria?" Maria was looking up at me, knowingly, and with love in her eyes. I looked at them both and said Maria is my granddaughter! Maria's smile grew wider and she looked at her classmates as if to say see, I told you! And I explained to them all, as I have on many occasions that Maria's mom had grown up with us as a little girl, and that she was my daughter, and so that meant that Maria and her two brothers were my grandchildren. I told them that we were a big family and that Maria had many many uncles and aunts and cousins that loved her very much because we chose to be a family. It is more important for Maria to hear this, than it is for her classmates. Although it is also good for them to learn that families come in all different forms and definitions.

By my last count, I have 41 grandchildren and three of them are named Heather. Some I see every week and others, only a few times a month. Some, only a few times a year, depending on where their Moms and Dads have spread out to on their own paths. No matter when or how often, they know I am here for them and the can reach out when they need me. Because that is what family is. I am sometimes asked, but don't you want any REAL children of your own? I hate this question, but I always answer that they are indeed my REAL children. That I never wanted biological children and had always thought that I would adopt, but then I came to an orphanage to volunteer but realized I could never pick just one or two of them, so I stayed and we chose each other to be our family. Our very real family.

In the last two years, we have suffered some tragic loss. Two of my sons on separate occasions were killed by the random gun violence that plagues our species. These moments have been the most difficult of my life. To bury one of your children, while trying to be strong for their brothers and sisters as they navigate the waters of sorrow for the first time at such profound depth, has been incredibly overwhelming. Something that I will never heal from. It's a weight that will always live in my heart. But this is the risk we take in loving fully, with reckless abandon. Sometimes it will gut punch you so hard, you forget how to breathe. Because even with chosen family, you don't get to pick and choose which moments you show up for.

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Ooof, I love this so much.

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Full blown ugly crying. I love you both so so so much and plan to keep doing so forever and ever and ever ♥️♥️♥️

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Important question is are you joining your brother when he tours ‘down under’ next January?

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How lucky these folks are to be included in your tribe!! Beautifully written!

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This is so beautiful. I love the haiku! Simple and powerful.

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