Updated: Aug 10
If you had asked me a month ago how many cousins I had, I would've said 3. My parents divorced in terrible fashion when I was only 7 years old. My mom came into my room in the middle of the night and told me to go wait in the car. As I left the house, my father was being held back by two police officers. I didn't see him again after that night for 19 years. But he wasn't all we lost in the divorce. We lost the connection to that entire side of the family.
I didn't remember many of them. We never talked to them, my mom didn't try to keep us in contact with them, likely out of for fear of my father. I don't blame her. They were literally 4000 miles away in another country. It was probably easier to just forget about all of them. My brother and I were raised in a little town in Delaware called Bethany Beach. We lived next to my mom's entire family (almost), so I never felt like I didn't have a family. I had exactly 3 cousins, 2 aunts, 3 uncles, and 2 grandparents.
After my father died in 2020, I started talking to my Uncle Ed, who was the executor of his estate. We had never really talked before, but he was so welcoming and caring. He told me and my brother about a family reunion that was happening in Canada this summer and invited us. My brother and I are both named after fellow family members, but my name is almost celebrity status in the family. Lona Garner was the great grandmother of the whole family. She had ten kids, and most of them lived in the Vancouver Islands their whole lives. Since I'm just outside of Seattle it wouldn't be too much trouble for me to go meet them all. But I was really surprised when my brother, Joe, wanted to go, too.
So, I planned a trip with my brother to go meet our long-lost family. It was surreal at points. First, I hadn't really hung out with my brother since I left Delaware 12 years ago. I didn't really know who he was anymore, and we were about to spend two weeks together uninterrupted! And second, that we were told there were going to be about 50 people at this reunion. All related to us! This was a huge expansion of my family definition!
You see, I've never been that close to family. I've always considered myself the black sheep of the tiny family that I knew. Always the one to push the boundaries. The troublemaker. They were all nice people, but it kind of ended there. We would get together for holidays and laugh, and we would wave to each other on the road, and I'm sure if I ever needed something they would help me, but I never felt like "family" really meant much to me. They were my neighbors. And I didn't ever think of my father's side of the family.
So, off we were, my only full-blooded sibling and I to meet the Garners of Canada! After 3 ferries we landed on Galiano Island, and my car promptly broke down. I called Ed, almost in tears, and 3 minutes later 5 Garners were at my car, helping me fix it! To enter into the family with a crisis was very surprising! They were all so supportive and wanted to help. They made sure I got everything I needed and then we went to meet the rest of the family! For two days we were overwhelmed with love, cheers, laughs, connection, and understanding. They didn't care that we hadn't reached out, they were excited we were there now. And more than a few times people would learn I was Lona Garner and gasped. They didn't know there was a Lona still alive. I felt like a celebrity.
And holy hell do I have a lot of cousins! My whole life I thought I only had 3, and now I was surrounded by cousins, and second cousins, and first cousins once removed! We played games, and smoked weed, and shared stories. It was a whirlwind for a few days, and when we parted ways it was bittersweet. Now I couldn't deny my family. Now I could embrace this entire group of wonderful people! I don't even know if I would have been the black sheep of this family. There were lots of people doing all sorts of wild things! There's another VITA coach in my family!! That's wild! There's another Tantrika. There's another witch! I wasn't the strange outcast in this group. It's healing knowing this now.
But that's not where the healing ended. On an even deeper level, I was able to reconnect with my brother, Joe. Two straight weeks living out of my trailer and a tent with him really changed our relationship. We aren't the same people from Delaware. He's transformed so much, and we were able to have deep, meaningful, intelligent conversations the entire trip. Sure, some parts were harder than others, but it honestly felt like we healed generational trauma by building a friendship with each other.
I'm blown away by this two-week trip. It feels like everything I knew about my family has transformed! My definition of family is more expansive, more loving, and more welcoming than ever! I love representing Lona Garner in a new way. I want to know everything about this family. And they're only a couple hours away! In Tantra, we don't talk about family too much. It's more about our connection to everything. But I also think that if you can deepen those relationships with the people you are from, then that can be a blissful, expansive, spiritual experience. I feel like I had a spiritual experience with them, and I can't wait to see where this all goes. Cheers to family!
INSPIRED ACTION: Investigate what family really means to you. Imagine if you could meet a whole new side of your family. What would make it expansive? What would make it difficult?