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The Affirmation Conference: Affirming Family

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By Ellen Koester

The last thing I thought I’d get out of Conference this year was the importance of family. Up until last weekend, I had resigned myself to the fact that family simply would not be something I would enjoy in this life. I’m smart, independent, and self-sustaining… I have always managed without it.

But all weekend, I was surrounded by beautiful examples of the unconditional love of a forever family. I met countless first time parents and family members attending with their kids. The Mama Dragons were out in full force. Spencer Day sang a beautiful song about “going home” in his closing number Friday night, and on Sunday afternoon, Julie de Azevedo Hanks sang about how her daughter, while rebellious, could never do anything to lose her mother’s love.

Anyone who saw me that weekend can attest to the fact that I was an on an emotional rollercoaster.

My highlight of the weekend had nothing to do with conference, but in a way, it had everything to do with it. During our first workshop session on Saturday morning, I ducked into a conference room so that I could call my Grandmother. Friday was her 70th birthday, and I wanted to call and tell her that I love her. Our conversations are always short… long enough to know how much we love each other, but short enough to avoid the hard stuff.

As we were wrapping up, she said something that had a profound impact on me,

“Ellie, I told your mom and dad a long time ago that I would never stop loving you and including you in my family.”

That comment was what I have been craving to hear for so many years. That regardless of our disagreements and past history, my Gram loves me and that won’t ever change. Every time that I erupted in tears over the weekend, I was thinking of my Gram. I was reminiscing of going home while listening to Spencer Day. I was imaging Gram singing Julie de Azevedo’s song about never losing her love.

Families truly are forever. No matter your circumstances, no matter your level of belief, all families will be forever connected by their love for one another. This conference reminded me that it’s possible for me too.

 

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Julie de Azevedo Hanks and pianist after performing at the 2014 Affirmation Conference
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Spencer Day, musical artist and gay Mormon, performing at the 2014 Affirmation Conference

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