Friends are the family that you choose

Celebrating a special woman

They say that friends are the family that you choose. When I was seven years old, and my family moved to Tokyo, my parents befriended another Canadian couple, John and Karen, who also had a son and daughter close to the age of my brother of me. It wasn’t long before they became family to us and us to them.

Even after they moved back to Ottawa, we remained close with many visits in Ottawa, our cabin in BC and their cottage in Nova Scotia. When I went to University in Halifax, I would often get the chance to meet up with John to have a beer and discuss my career plans. Every time we visit my inlaws in Halifax, Ruv, the kids and I drive to the Brule shore to visit with John and Karen. Most recently, my family was able to stay over with their daughter Shannon and catch up on the many years apart. I was amazed at how much Shannon had become her mom in body and spirit. Over 35 years, we all enjoyed parties, weddings, beach walks, lobster dinners, and so many laughs.

Karen and my mom were true friends. Always willing to support and care for one another. They travelled, raised their kids, laughed, cried and were there for each other regardless of the distance between them. Even when Mom’s conversations made less sense, Karen would sit on the phone and listen to her stories and support her. That’s the kind of person Karen was; kind, forthcoming, loving and funny as hell. John and Karen are the second set of parents I was not born into, but I chose. They bring so much joy to my family.

Today I was visiting with Mom when I heard of Karen’s passing. It seems like a small gift that I can give Mom, that due to her failing memory, there’s no need to tell her that her best friend had passed. Instead, I will grieve for us both and take time to remember all of the beautiful times that the two of them had together. My heart is heavy but full of love, gratitude, friendship and memories.

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