It’s All About Heart

By Diane DeVaughn Stokes

It isn’t about blood. It isn’t about roots or heritage. It’s all about HEART. I’m talking about family.

Yes, I have to admit there is an incredible bond when you meet up with cousins you have not seen in forty years, and you pick up where you left off. Or when you attend a family reunion that hasn’t happened in ten years, and it’s as if time stood still. That is something special. But it’s even more special to feel like family with folks you have chosen to love or those who have chosen to love you.

“Family” is the group you turn to when you need comfort and care. “Family” is the group that brightens your life when all else fails. “Family” is always there for you in the good times and bad, never judging, just supporting every step of the journey.

When Chuck and I moved to Myrtle Beach we lived in the Forestbrook community. All of our neighbors were retirees and they adopted us, from mowing our lawns while we were at work, to helping us shovel manure at the local stable to fill our garden beds with fertilizer. They all became our family. One couple in particular was Dwight and Sue Roach. They had us over for dinner, helped us knock down a wall in our dining room, and seemed to always be there for us when we needed them. Over the past years, even when we moved out of the neighborhood, we never lost contact. Sadly, just last month I was asked to do the eulogy at Sue’s funeral. You can’t tell me that we are not family, and don’t try to tell them either!

I have three very special nieces that I love. None of them are officially related, but unofficially are as close to me as the ones related by blood. Last week at a dinner at First Presbyterian Church, Abigail came running up to me yelling “Hi, Aunt Diane.” Realizing both of her parents were Korean, her friend asked me if I was her mom’s sister or her dad’s, and how come I did not look like Abigail. I told the friend that I was not an Aunt in the traditional way of being sister to either parent. I chose to love and adopt Abigail from the day I met her. With that, the friend said, “Oh, you are a pretend Aunt?” And Abigail said, “No, she is for real.” Way to go, Abigail. She gets it.

Twenty-five years ago, Chuck and I were named guardians to Darielle, whose parents worked with me in local television. We have celebrated birthdays, Christmases, graduations and every other important moment of her life over the years. In May we took Dari and her boyfriend out to dinner and she said, “Thank you for loving me when you did not have to.” That meant the world to me. Dari knows that we are truly family.

And about fifteen years ago, Nikki, who was 10 at the time, was staying with us while her parents went on a much needed vacation. Ironically, this was the week her school history assignment was to design a family tree. Together we filled in a few of the branches of the tree with names I knew from both her parents, as she knew some of the others. However, as we completed the project, Nikki said, “But where do I put you and Uncle Chuck?” I laughed and made a joke that she could make us leaves on the ground, as if we fell off the tree, and she said “Never.” Then she carefully designated a branch especially for us with two hearts on it and penciled in our names. It was obvious that we had taught her that love extended far beyond the realms of ancestry.

Some people don’t understand this true picture of family, but if you really stop and think about the people you love most, about more than half of them are not related to you at all. Family is what we create with our hearts; special people and dear friends adopted into your circle of life. It really is all about HEART.

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2 Responses to “It’s All About Heart”

  1. I’ve read the paper issue and this is a beautiful story about how “others” can be our family.

  2. Eileen Kim says:

    Aunt Diane, what pride and joy it is for Abigail to call you one of her “true” aunts! You’ve been there for her, even before she was born!!! We love Chuck and you, and you will always be Uncle Chuck and Aunt Diane to us!!!

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