Friends can become your family, as Beki Reese and Matthew Tanksley know. Tanksley was friends with Reese’s 22-year-old son, Caleb, who died of lung cancer. He helped his friend along the way and comforted the Reese family during the tragic time. Beki was happy to welcome Matthew into the family, as Matthew’s own mother had passed away when he was a young teen.
Matthew shares, “Through that ordeal, that nine-month period, I became like a full-fledged member of the family. We were having family dinners together, we were going out to eat, we were talking to each other every day on the phone. Hard times build bonds, and that definitely happened.”
Matthew has now been part of the Reese family for seven years, referring to Beki as “Mom.” Matthew also married Caleb’s former girlfriend and had two children of his own, who refer to Beki as “Nana.”
The Reese family is not alone; history has shown that many have considered their friends to be part of their family, or what Dr. Dawn O. Braithwaite, head of communication studies at the University of Nebraska, refers to as “voluntary kin.” Dr. Braithwaite explains, “They see these folks as family, and so I’m going to honor that. We want to think about it more as a continuum from friendship to family, and I don’t know when the bell rings. But definitely, for these people, nobody had a doubt that it was a family to them.” Whether it’s for a short period or a lifetime, family can mean so much more than simply blood relations.