A few short weeks into dating Gunnar, I went over to his parents’ house and noticed that the kitchen was suddenly stocked with gluten free snacks. Gunnar won’t touch gluten free food with a ten foot pole, but I have celiac disease and have to avoid all gluten. I remember feeling so cared for and welcomed.

It’s the understatement of the year to say that Gunnar’s family treats me (and all guests) very well. If you come over for dinner, there’s a 95% chance you end up staying the night because you don’t want to leave.

Gunnar’s parents’ fridge stocked with my favorite cauliflower pizza crusts

Gunnar’s family is exceptionally kind. I learned last week that Lea Faraone’s family is, too. Her service was filled with so much love, and every seat in the enormous cathedral was occupied. Her family invited us to a gathering at a local restaurant after the service. When Gunnar and I walked in, we were immediately approached by one of Lea’s many aunts who said, “Gunnar can I go get you a plate of food from the back? I know Lea wouldn’t have eaten from this buffet – we know what to do here!” It was both a loving and funny gesture (much like Lea’s personality!). Later, Lea’s Mom checked in with everyone to make sure they had enough to eat.

On the way home, Gunnar and I talked about how it felt like we’d known Lea’s family for a long time, even though we just met. For such an incredibly sad day, her family balanced it out with so much love.

It turns out that every CF family I know is extraordinarily welcoming. I would have guessed it would be the opposite. Wouldn’t it be natural to become an insular, little family unit upon a diagnosis of a serious illness? Rather, it seems as if a cystic fibrosis diagnosis makes a family grow fivefold.

Tiffany Rich’s family proves this theory about CF families, too. Her parents consider her friends Kelsey, Callie, Kim, and Brittany as their own daughters. I love the photo of her packed hospital room right before she got her transplant.

My friend Jon thinks that a CF diagnosis paves the way for families to appreciate that the highs and lows of life are better with more people around. It’s better to have more people around during a scary hospitalization, and it’s better to have more people around when you celebrate good health. His family follows the same policy as Tiff… friends were always welcome at the dinner table, and to this day, they call his Dad when they have “house” issues that he can come over and fix. Jon also suggests that it’s good to be friends with a CF family because their homes are stocked with all the good food J

It’s this “our door is always open” attitude that I initially thought contradicts a CF diagnosis, but clearly I was wrong. Turns out, a CF diagnosis results in showing openness, warmth, and love to all. Gunnar says that the experience of living with CF has value and that it has shaped his personality in more ways than he can count. I’ve learned that’s true for CF families, too.