Belonging to a family is something that most of us take for granted in our lives. That is, we are born into one and then, more often than not, expect to create one ourselves. Families can take so many forms today yet all of us assume we have one. Yet family is one of the most complex and changing groups that we can belong to and when it changes our whole sense of identity goes into topsy-turvy no matter how independent we claim that we are.
I have been thinking about this as my father is close to passing away from cancer just now. It has been a long process which has given everyone in the family the chance to think through what belonging to this family has meant to us. The passing of my father will change the family forever and with that each of us who is a part of it has to rethink who we are.
Someone told me that you are not an adult until you have lost a parent. Perhaps that means now at the age of 40 I will become an adult. I thought that I was one already but there is a certain sense of responsibility and leadership that suddenly falls to the next generation - me - when the older generation passes away.
It feels as though there are many question marks as to what form the family will take once my father dies. How will our relationships change. How will we hold the family together? I have my own family with two children and husband and it is perhaps this new family that will help me to redefine my relationship to the old one. My children need a surviving grandparent and my mother is the only one left. My sister is their only aunt. And so perhaps it is in my identity as a mother - my sense of belonging to my new family - that I can reinvent the way that I belong to the family that I originally came from.