Today is the International Day of Families. Families are the bedrock of societies and nations.
From an early age, I learned to respect and cherish my family. My Family, I quickly realized, was more than just the nuclear entity. My parents, especially my dad, preached the concept of unity, a lesson he had learned from his father.
Both branches of my family have gone through difficult times. Yet we the descendants are a testimony of our ancestor’s forbearance. As a child, I loved the holidays because it was a time to gather with family. Christmas time was often the best time of the year for me as we traveled and made our way back home to Asaba, Delta State, Nigeria. It was always a great time to reunite with loved ones.
When I turned 14 years old, all that changed. When my immediate family moved to Zambia as missionaries. It was a difficult transition for me; I missed home and my family back in Nigeria. And it took a while before Zambia would become home. In the meantime, I drew closer to my parents and siblings.
At 18, I left Zambia and my immediate family behind and moved to California for university. The first year was horrible and miserable for me. It was hard adjusting to a new culture on my own. Thank God for my family in Zambia for sending me letters, email and chatting with me on messenger, and calling me.
However, it was also at this time that I reconnected with my cousins, who became a lifeline to me. I will always cherish the first summer I spent with my cousin in San Francisco. Or the Thanksgiving and Christmas after that in Baltimore with my older cousins. Even though we were in America, it was just like we were gathering back at home in my grandparent’s house in Asaba.
These moments with my loved one always inspired me to do better. It was like being connected to my roots. Since then, that bond we created has served us well because most of us have gone our separate ways. Yet though oceans and COVID-19 might separate us, we are still committed to each other.
I have since made a home in all the countries I have lived in, Kenya, Nigeria, America, and who knows where I might find myself tomorrow. But one thing has remained constant in my life, my family. Even though I often end up living far away from my family, both immediate and extended, I know that there are people who have my back.
Today something special reminded me how blessed I am to have a family like mine. No, we are not perfect and yes we’ve lost loved ones along the way but we are still there for one another. Today my cousin graduated from University in America, and because of COVID, the ceremony was virtual. But as a family, we gathered together using technology to celebrate with the young man.
As I saw my Uncles, Aunties, and cousins, all joining in from the various cities across the world, they now call home. It was beautiful to hear their voices after such a long time as we each took a minute to speak to the graduate.
Tears of joy filled my eyes because even though distance and time separate us. We could still come together as one body and celebrate the achievements of one of us.
We closed out our family gathering on Zoom, singing our family Anthem, “O God our Help in Ages Past,” and then prayed together. Young and old together, a legacy still being passed on to the new generation. This is my family, still standing by the grace of God and the legacy of those who have gone on before us. This is the community I want to give to my future children.
I want to say thank you to The Daniel-Ofili Chijindu Family and the Frazer Family, without whom I will not be who I am.