Crew, posse, network: Do you have one?

Ralph Waldo Emerson said this:

No member of a crew is praised for the rugged individuality of his rowing.

That’s because a crew needs to be in synch; to pull together at equal strength. Connected. Coordinated.


Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash


Several dozen years ago, I was invited to my best friend’s family reunion. I had already met Cheryl’s immediate family, but didn’t know there was a fourth brother. Gary.

A lot of frisbee-throwing and river-dunkings and baseball-playing took place that weekend on Oregon-green grass. And each night, Gary and I talked late around the campfire.

When it was time to say good-bye, Gary asked if he could write. Letters jetted back and forth between Europe and Denver. Ink on airmail stationary. You may have heard of it.

A year later, after I returned to the States and after our first official date, Gary asked me to marry him.

Wait … what?! 

The smartest thing I ever did was say, Yes.

And now the 49th annual Johnson family reunion is this Memorial Day weekend. They were expecting between 100-120 people. Minus one. Me.

After hundreds of road miles and thousands of air miles these past few weeks, my body rebelled. It said, “Nope. I’m not getting back in that car and driving again. My throat hurts. And I’m achy all over. I need you to sleep. Deep and long.”

Sigh. I had plans to take photos and write a blog about the importance of a support team while undergoing adversity. I was going to write about how my husband’s family loved us as Gary lived and died well with cancer.

And I was going to write about how these same in-laws support me in widowhood—maybe without even realizing it—by including me in all their family gatherings.

This thought from Jane Howard:

Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe … whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.

Since I’m not at the family gathering to take photos, I’m going to “borrow” some from Facebook to show you what I missed this year (photo credit: Jonathan Bamford).

I missed playing in the sand …



… and playing in the water …



… and climbing the ropes.



I missed counting how many Johnson men it takes to flip enough burgers to feed a hundred people …



… and I missed chatting with some of my beautiful nieces.



In my absence, multiple text messages dinged on my phone:

“How are you feeling?”

“We miss you.”

“I’m sorry you got sick.”

“Are you coming down????”

“Love and miss you.”

“Sitting here talking about you.” (Hmm … now that doesn’t sound good.)

And so even though I wasn’t at this year’s support group meeting family gathering, I still felt supported and loved and missed.

I’m curious: What does your support group look like?

It doesn’t matter so much what we call it – team, network, battalion, Bible study group, knitting posse, hike crew; it matters that we get connected.

Because we’re better together.


P.S. If you know of someone who needs to get plugged into community, please share, tweet or pin!


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  1. Julie Miller


    A clan is so important, though we often aren’t aware of it’s existence and don’t tap into it until a crisis hits. Another lovely blog.

    I’ve just retired and your blog influenced my decision to do so. Would love to grab a cup of tea sometime when you’ve rested and recovered.


    • Well said, Julie. This is the thing I never want to take for granted: “ … we often aren’t aware of it’s existence and don’t tap into it until a crisis hits” – whether it’s my own fabulous family or my equally-fabulous in-laws, or my hike crew, our my knitting posse, or …

      (I’d love to grab a cup of tea!)

  2. Kris Johnson

    Ohh auntie so well said as always…. doing life together is the best place to be…
    we love you so much .

  3. Nora

    Hi Marlys, I’m going to visit my clan in California next week. I’ll call them the “Good, Bad & Ugly”; I love them all and they love me, warts and all. We laugh a lot and sometimes we put on funny skits. I’ve known these people forever and they all make me happy (most of the time). I believe a clan is important to human existence, without our clan we aren’t whole & we won’t survive.

    Thank you for blog, it always speaks to me. Love, Nora

    • Well said, Nora: “… a clan is important to human existence, without our clan we aren’t whole & we won’t survive.” Thank you! Enjoy your clannish visit!

  4. Peter

    Having commitments, having to be there etc, sometimes becomes too much. In my situation, you know I’ve had to ‘put aside’ lots of things… I am my Barbara’s carer now and life is different BUT good for US in our togetherness. As for being part of a group/clan/bible study group/get together music folk etc, It is they who cared for me when I was ‘not able or couldn’t always join them’… it was they who reminded me, ‘There are some things in life that YOU have no control over’ (i.e. helping to mend my Barbara). They also reminded me, ‘Don’t beat yourself up so much’. With their concerns and compassion I was able to see that I aught to step back, be there for Barbara and help with her needs… ‘Just Being there for her’, helped me to truly understand what ‘Be anxious for nothing – Phil 4.6’ is really saying to us all. Thanks again, take care Marlys. Our love, Bx P & family.

  5. Fawn

    Good morning Marly, beautiful written and so true. Our clan is our Bible Study group. We have been together for 8yrs and have become that support family. Blessings, Fawn

  6. Debbie Daniels

    Hi Marlys, I don’t always read your blogs right away. As I read this morning, I was thinking of my Dad’s memorial yesterday. There was extended family (Dad’s cousins and mine, aunts,uncles, my kids) CBA family, church family and friends. I could only think how blessed I am. Thank you for sharing your life. Blessings!

    • Oh, Debbie, I’m so sorry to hear of your loss, but very glad to hear of so many family and friends honoring you and your father, and to know you recognize that as a blessing during this time of your loss. Peace to you, my friend.

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