I witnessed a powerful act of family on the weekend. Most families are made up of a diverse collection of genetic and non-genetic relationships and our Westwood/Smith family reunion on the weekend was a great example of this. The glue that holds this family together is the patriarch Albert Edward Westwood who was my grandmother’s father. My grandmother, Bertha Smith (nee Westwood) had a brother, William, who had five children: Ralph, Eva, Marvin, Gordon, and Barry. My grandmother died in 2010 and her children and grandchildren carry on the tradition of getting together with the Westwood clan for a sometimes annual reunion. My cousin, Dan Smith, and his wife Linda, are truly gifted in hospitality and bless many people by opening their home to family and friends. They shared their acreage near Three Hills with the more than 50 people who gathered, ranging in age from 2 months to 79 years.
Beyond the glue of genetic relationships, there are bonds of marriage, friendship, adoption, spiritual resemblance, spiritual difference, love, care, concern, debate, music, and comradery. As we all took time out of our busy schedules and got reacquainted, there was a sense of awe as we considered how this family came together through many circumstances. We spoke of the randomness with which our ancestors came to reside in Central Alberta. My father’s father came to Canada from Ireland at 14 years of age because some relatives of his had relocated to the prairies. My mother’s father arrived from England at 17 and added "Maclaren" as a middle name, playing up his Scottish heritage, so that he could get work in the West where there was a prejudice against privileged English boys. He too had followed relatives to Canada after considering moving to New Zealand. We considered the coincidences of people meeting and marrying, adopting because of care for another portion of the family, or adopting from outside of the family for medical reasons. We realized how fortunate or blessed we were to know this diverse crowd of people and call them family.
Coaxed by his aunt and his distant cousin, young Liam, lived up to his Celtic name, and quieted the crowd as he sang Gordon Lightfoot’s “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” He sang a capella as he read the lyrics from another distant cousin’s smart-phone and brought down the house. Liam was later seen playing along on the cajón, keeping rhythm while others sang.