Life can take us on unexpected journeys and such has been the case this month. On Halloween, one of my brothers had last-minute heart surgery. Within an hour of this unexpected news, I booked a flight from the western U.S. to the east and on the next day settled in for an open-ended journey in the belly of a Boeing 737.

I didn’t know what I would do once there, where exactly I would sleep, whether I would ultimately be regarded as a help or hindrance. All I knew when I left for the east coast was that I needed to do this thing–whatever this thing was. I knew I needed to leave my happy, settled place in order to enter and assist with someone’s moment of chaos.

Two-and-a-half weeks later, I’m here sitting on my brother’s couch, knowing I made the right decision. I’ve done this sort of thing before–this leaving my comfortable world to step into a family members’ unsettled world for an extended period of time. I’m also reflecting on the times when through the years family members have dropped everything for me, maybe not for a long stretch like this will be, but definitely in more difficult situations, and I’m reminded how circular it all is. I help you … you help me … I say I don’t ‘need’ any help… you say you don’t need any help… and yet… I help you again… you help me again… and on and on and on.

On this trip, I’ve even spoken with a family member with whom speaking is a few-and-very-far-between event and always laced with awkward tension. But because of my brother’s serious surgery two weeks ago, the reasons for that awkward tension have faded in the face of the reality that, when stripped down to the bones, we are still family. This same revelation has occurred several times throughout my lifetime. It is the very injection my soul needs every now and again, full of the good stuff that keeps me going, and it usually arrives when I least expect it from sources and situations I could never anticipate nor imagine.

And so, on this upcoming Thanksgiving, though I’ll be seriously aching for and missing my own home where my thoughtful, loving husband misses me deeply and awaits my return, I will in equal measure feel thankful for this opportunity to be with the family I grew up with, the family that at times I’ve been at odds with, the family that is there for me–as I am there for them–when life takes us all on journeys unanticipated.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all. May you recognize the gifts you’re being given on your own journeys. Sometimes, those gifts are hard to see, but if you are open to it, they are there waiting for you.



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