Sara Orellana-Paape mug 2018

Sara Orellana-Paape

Strong family bonds is a concept I truly did not understand for a long period of my adult life. Growing up, we moved a lot, rarely living in the same time zone as my extended family. As this was pre-social media, keeping up with my family was not an easy task. Letters could be sent, but even then, before the continuous demand the internet, social media, and cell phones have placed on our lives, taking time to write a letter was not a thing. And so, distance, years, and life separated me from much of my family.

I have always been close to my parents, and for 12 years had the opportunity to be close with my grandparents. But close relationships with cousins, aunts and uncles were something I didn’t have. Facebook reconnected us to some extent, but the years of no communication had left a distance which was hard to overcome.

But, as life has a way of doing, a series of challenges united us. Working through my dad’s heart episode, as we like to call it, opened doors of communication which had previously been closed, not because of hard feelings or hurts, but simply because of distance. Throughout the first days of my dad’s episode, I was the chief communications person. I sent regular updates to family, near and far, as well as friends. In these moments of strain and emotions, doors were opened, and relationships were re-established.

In the interesting ways of the universe, these opened doors have remained open and bonds have been created. In the four months since dad’s ordeal, we have a very active text group with all 9 siblings, my mom and myself. We regularly communicate, sharing highs and lows, offering support, and more often than not, simply being a family. I cannot speak for my parents, but I absolutely love it. I love feeling a connection with each of my aunts and uncles, to know I can text them and ask for help or simply share a moment. Finding this bond has enriched my life more than I could have dreamed.

Sadly, we all shared another heart episode this week. My dad is fine, instead, an uncle had surgery, received a pacemaker, and spent multiple nights in the hospital. Mom and I relived the scary moments and emotions from dad’s episode. But this time it was different. This time, as we struggled with our emotions and offered support to my aunt, I noticed we no longer felt alone, we were part of a community.

This past weekend, I got to spend some much-needed one-on-one time with my parents. We laughed and joked as we worked on projects, and eventually we ended up talking about the family text. My mom said she was officially stating no more heart episodes this year, my dad reminisced about an aunt, and I smiled as I watched my parents talking to their family, their friends.

Family bonds are the strings which connect us to our past, they hold the secrets of where we come from and who we are. They tell the stories of our lives and pave the way for the future. In the end, these bonds are one of the few things we have, and the only real thing we can leave to our children. Not all of us are fortunate enough to have healthy family bonds, for some, it is best to cut these ties and start again. But mark my words, you need family bonds to anchor you through the storms of life, so create these bonds with the friends who have become family.