Last Saturday some of our extended family got together at my daughter’s house. We’ve had family parties before but there was something a little different about this one. Maybe it was the size; it was a smaller group than usual. Maybe we were all more relaxed. Whatever the reason, it seemed a more intimate gathering. There was time to really get to talk to each other.

Our family is spread out, so I rarely get to see my cousins. But at this party I got to spend some time talking to many of them. There’s one cousin in particular that I feel I’m getting to know better. (I think she’s a second cousin. I never was very good at familial math.)

She can be quite a character with a wit and a laugh that lifts even the heaviest heart. But I’ve come to realize that under her self-deprecating humor lies a somewhat bruised soul. Like most of us, she has many good memories, but some sad ones too. Her bruises, of course, are personal and do not belong in this blog. But she has allowed me to peek under her brittle shell a bit to see her tender spirit.

Before Leuk came to roost, I was distant from my family. I don’t mean we didn’t get along and I’m not talking about the physical distance between us. I just mean I never considered the real happenings in their lives. They were simply my cousins. Family I got to see from time to time.

I think one of the blessings Leuk has given me is discovering the importance of getting closer to family and friends.

Leuk has sharpened my sight. I see my family – even the extended family – differently now. They are not just cousins or aunts or uncles. They are, or should be, inside my circle of important people.

Sometimes when I write I take a long time getting around to what I’m trying to say. Sorry about that.

So here’s the crux of it: Leuk has made time more important to me. Or maybe I mean he has made how I spend that time more important.

In my not-so-humble opinion, if you have leukemia it is time to stop making work a priority or trying to find happiness by owning flashy, shiny things. You’ve seen me write about sailing. It’s not owning the boat that matters. It’s just a material possession that I will sell someday (or it might sink!). What matters is the time it allows me to spend with my family and friends.

CLL is usually slower moving than other types of leukemia, so I may have many years ahead of me. But how I spend those years is way more important to me than before. So here’s one of my new rules to live by:

Surface relationships should be limited to your postman or bartender. Family deserve more.

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