I got home last night from spending four days with my brothers. It was truly an extraordinary time; special to me in a way I’m not sure I can completely convey. 

The three of us live in different cities; I live in a different state. We see each other a couple of times a year, typically around a holiday, and always around a large group of people. There are exchanged pleasantries, and catching up on the latest with our families and jobs. A few times they’ve come with their families to visit me, but we’ve never spent time alone – just the three of us. We’ve never given ourselves time to get past the surface stuff and talk, heart to heart, about the things that matter. That is, until this week.
I looked at them both, away from the families and careers that now define them, and saw the boys that they were.  I remembered the kids with whom I’d shared a bathroom, a home, parents, a life. Running before my mind’s eye was a home movie of boys riding dirt bikes and playing ball in the back yard, of an incessant drum beat from the bedroom of a boy surrounded by KISS posters and dreams of becoming a rock star, of a horn-playing boy surrounded by a million friends. My brothers, now men, are loving and strong and living out their dreams in their own lives, with their own families. I’m so proud of who they’ve become.

Throughout the week, I kept thinking about blood ties. What makes those ties so different from our other relationships? Certainly, there is a shared history. But oftentimes, we know other people better than those to whom we’re related. Even so, the ties we have with our families (like it or not) are strong. They connect us to a “center” somehow, grounding us and providing a bedrock to our existence. Even those with a painful family experience find it hard to just walk away.  Often, the longing for resolution to long-standing issues or restoration for estrangement is too strong to ignore, because blood ties are heart ties. We aren’t just tied together with our families by proximity or shared experience. We have the same blood coursing through our veins.
Our families are the only ones with whom we have ties at both the beginning and the end of life. It’s through getting to really know them, that we can shed light on parts of ourselves that perhaps we don’t fully know or understand. Sometimes, they are the key to lifetime mysteries and, often, they are the ones that will stand with you when everyone else walks away. 
Even in the busiest of times, we are doing ourselves a favor to take time to invest in strengthening our family relationships.  My familial blood is pumping strongly through my heart this day, even though my brothers and I are once again separated by miles. Because we did some “heart exercise”, those blood ties seem thicker and less effected by the distance. 
They truly are the ties that bind.
…A cord of three strands is not easily broken.  Ecclesiastes 4:12