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Reflections About Life and Loss After a Visit to My Childhood Neighborhood

A trip to the places of my childhood yields unexpected teachings about life and loss.




Photo by Anita Jankovic on Unsplash
Photo by Anita Jankovic on Unsplash

Introduction

The following represents a sequel of sorts to an article that I wrote in 2014 for the HuffPost blog titled Destined to Remember. I was recently driven to review the content of this article and the observations and reflections that I had at that time. During the last 8 years of my life I have discovered the value of our past as a teacher to us in the present. My desire to look back at these events described below, revealed that there was more left to discover.

Back to My Roots

In November of 2014, I was nudged by my good friend Patty Furino ,who was visiting me from Long Island at the time ,to take her to see my childhood home.

I wasn’t sure what the benefits of this visit would be, other than giving a good friend an introduction to my roots.  After I got married in 1982, I moved from the only home that I knew.  I had lived there with my late mother Sadie and my late Aunt Rose. My maternal grandmother Bridgett lived there as well, but she died when I was fourteen. My wife Cheri and our 2 children visited regularly, but once my aunt and mother moved, a few years after I did, there was no reason for me to go back.

However, I trusted  Patty’s intuition enough to take the drive. She was responsible for my spiritual awakening ,approximately 8 years after my daughter Jeannine’s death. Jeannine was eighteen years old when she died in March of 2003 from cancer. Patty helped me embrace a more sacred perspective, and find peace with my daughter’s physical absence.

A Vacant Lot

Photo by Jonathan Percy on Unsplash

Upon returning to my childhood home we discovered a vacant lot. I was prepared to discover a home that was in slight disrepair and worn by the elements over the years, but not a vacant lot. My childhood home was the foundation for my hopes, dreams for the future and memories, both good and bad.

Following that discovery, I felt the urge to take Patty to a church that I frequented as a child and during my teenage years and a place where my mother and the rest of my extended family worshiped. My Aunt Rose sang in the church choir every Sunday.  I looked up at the choir loft and an immediate wave of sadness and regret enveloped me.

My sadness and regret stemmed from the way that I treated my aunt when I was younger. Many days,I was rude and dismissive to my aunt because I saw her as a burden to my mother, who willingly took care of her. My aunt was intellectually disabled as a result of a childhood episode of scarlet fever. Regardless of how I treated her; she loved me unconditionally. In that moment, all I could think of was to ask my Aunt Rose for forgiveness.

Before we left church, I lit a candle and gave thanks for the teachings that were revealed to me as a result of my visit and thanked my Aunt Rose and the rest of my ancestors who predeceased me for their presence in my life.

My aunt was a convenient scapegoat for my own anger and resentment after my father left me and my mother, when I was five years old. Perhaps my aunt understood what she could not clearly articulate; that I was truly troubled by my father’s leaving . She didn’t love me any less because of my anger and resentment, if anything, she loved me more.

Further Reflections

Photo by Jason Blackeye on Unsplash

My visit to my childhood home in 2014 was a conduit to do some ancestral healing with my Aunt Rose and to acknowledge the legacies of my ancestors who now reside on the other side.  

I discovered the importance of ancestral healing 2 years earlier. At that time, I made peace with my late father’s leaving through the realization that it was an act of love rather than an act of abandonment. The ancestral work that I did with my father served as the impetus for me to do the same with my aunt. It was all connected.

Here are some other final reflections and observations :

  • That non-death related loss carries with it, its own grief. Whether it is divorce ,the loss of a job or, in my case ,the demolition of my childhood home, the grief that results needs to be honored and validated by those friends and family who bear witness to it.
  • My aunt taught me about the power of love and gentleness. My mother taught me ,among other things, about the importance of service to others. As I child, my grandmother regularly told me about life in her native country of Lebanon, and about her journey to the United States of America. From her, I learned the importance of storytelling.
  • The teachings that I discovered from my deceased mother, aunt and grandmother have helped me find meaning in the aftermath of my daughter’s death. The values that we have learned in the past, dictate our actions  towards others in the present and influence the actions of future generations.
  • What was true in 2014, rings true today. Though my childhood home is no longer where I remember it to be, the memories of my  life there will never fade. As Jeannine has become forever a part of me, the house that I grew up in will forever be a part of me.

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