Lincoln is asleep between Ray and me in bed. His head touches my leg because it assures his connection. He’s on his back, with his splayed legs across Ray’s. My husband of 43 years is snoring softly. This is my family, my real family, two guys and a dog, all in love.

For a workshop exercise some years ago, I was given a page of drawn circles, the smallest being in the center, and others progressively larger around it. The task was to spontaneously place in the circles the names of others, in the order of their significance to us. The first circle was easy. It was Ray and Brit, our dog at the time. 

It never occurred to me to put my own name in there too. Why would I see myself as a significant person to myself? Learning to know, love, and take care of myself is a work in development.

After I put Ray and Brit in the center of the paper, it was an eye opener for me what names I put close to the little circle, and the names I put in the outermost spaces. In some cultures, I might have been kidnapped, and killed in shame, for not putting the names of my biological family in the closest possible circle. 

But they weren’t there. 

Some didn’t even make the page. The first names that came to my mind were those of people who loved and enjoyed me for who I am, and of those who I loved because they touched my soul with their innate goodness. 

It seems strange to me that at funerals, biological family members are given the seats up front. The real friends of the deceased usually sit rows back asking each other, “Who’s he?” “Oh, he’s the brother who hasn’t spoken to him for years.” 

I’ve made it clear to Ray who I want allowed in to say “good-bye,” and who I want blocked at the door to my hospital or bedroom. If I was in a king size bed, I’d want my favorite people to climb in and join Ray, Lincoln, and me.    

Some people, such as myself, believe that when our bodies die, our souls enter a vibration of peace, love, and awareness. It’s in that environment of complete acceptance and forgiveness for every soul that we see clearly all things, including how we didn’t live our most recent human experience in sync with the Universe/God/Love. 

We then feel compelled to give it another try. This happens over and over until our souls are a complete and perfect representation of our divine nature.


Some people also believe, and I’m open to it, that we come back in the company of the same souls with whom we had our previous human experiences. In other words, Ray’s and my souls have always been family, along with Jeremy’s, Brit’s, and Lincoln’s. And Jeremy, Brit, and Lincoln might not have been dogs.

If I lost you a couple of paragraphs ago, it doesn’t matter. Most of us who live in open cultures readily admit the difference between biological and logical families. Some of us celebrated the holidays with friends before making the trek to see family. That doesn’t mean that we don’t love our family, we just don’t always like some of its members, or enjoy the dramas that play out each time we get together. I know there are families that are very tight, but it ought not be presumed that, even within a close family, everyone is enjoying themselves as much as the others.


I’m thinking about this a lot because Ray, Lincoln, and I are downsizing our possessions (yes, Lincoln is too), which requires me placing in other’s hands the things we don’t feel the desire, or need, to keep. 

Although it’s freeing to clear the decks of clutter, the question that disturbs me is, “Who should get the ‘treasures’ we’re ready to pass on?” My first thoughts, as is true with our wills, are of family members, mostly nieces and nephews. 

But, why? 

Is there a right to family succession, even when you’re of the mind that your closest souls don’t share your blood, and that your blood members don’t necessarily understand, much less share your soul? Maybe it’s because most friends don’t stay constants in our lives, but family is always in the picture. Their names and birthdays are tattooed across our conscious mind. And yet, in my soul migration, I’m not sure I want to have my next human experience in the company of all of my family members. 

 It’s a conundrum to me. Why would I feel compelled to take a long, expensive trip to attend the funeral of a person who didn’t make it into any of my circles? But with people who were closest to my heart, I’d feel that at least I had a choice? Expectations make me uncomfortable. I want my heart and soul free of such clutter. I want my behavior to be in sync with my heart, and not with my head.  


 Lincoln has moved over so that I can now roll onto my side, and fall asleep, but I leave you with the recommendation of drawing the concentric circles, and see whose names go where. It might surprise you, and help clarify the members of your true family.

Check out other stories by Brian McNaught

McNaught: Keeping Them Together

McNaught: Memories Light The Corners Of My Mind

McNaught: Through Thin And Thick

McNaught: The Way We Were