What Does Family, Extended Mean?

What Does Family, Extended Mean?

In honor of Hammer’s 100th anniversary and NER’s 50th anniversary, we have published Legacies, a special anniversary magazine, celebrating our history, the people we have supported, and those who have made our mission possible all these years. Here is one of the featured stories:

To me, family, extended means being a part of someone’s life—going through life’s difficulties and triumphs alongside another person throughout our life journey.  It means being there for each other throughout the years. Such is the relationship I’ve had with my friend, Lynn. She and I have shared so much of our life together.

I started my connection with my Hammer family as a teenager, working there on school breaks during high school and college. One of the first people I met at Hammer was Lynn. She and I had an instant connection. We both had strong and loving families and shared stories of them. What a joy it was when weekly, Lynn would receive letters from her mom and dad who lived many hours away. We would read them and laugh and cry at the news from home.

Lisbeth and Lynn

One thing about friendships that make them so worthwhile is learning about the other person.  When an opportunity came up for Lynn to move to an apartment by herself, we were uncertain as to whether she would enjoy that. As I talked to her about the possibility, she was unable to say “yes” or “no” but immediately asked very pointed and specific questions about what it would mean. “Will I have my own mailbox?” “Will I have my own food?” were her first questions. I knew that meant that she was interested and up for the challenge. Having her own space has proved to be a vital and very positive thing for Lynn. I couldn’t be happier for her.

When I got married, Lynn was in attendance and seemed so happy for me. She has spent lots of time with my husband, Mark, our dog, and me. Mark has been a safe and enjoyable friend to her as well. When Lynn was unable to be with her own family for holidays for any number of reasons, she spent time with mine and was welcomed in as if she was a natural family member.

As the years went by and our families aged and parents died, we shared the sorrow of that together by attending funerals for each other’s family members as a way of supporting each other.

There have been times in our relationship when we haven’t been able to see each other for one reason or another but the minute we do get together it is as if we’d not been apart. Lynn and I are in our 60s now and still enjoying our lifelong friendship. Even with my retirement and move to California we remain family, extended.

Lisbeth started at Hammer in 1984 and worked in many capacities, from Counselor at our Carlson home to Program Manager, Program Director, and then Chief Program Officer until her retirement in 2015. She is a friend and cherished colleague to many.

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