My sister and I sat in the front row at my mother’s service and embraced the opening message shared by our family friend, one of my life mentors. Three words in particular echo in my heart like it was yesterday.
“She is home,” he said.
Few moments in life are so poignant, touching the deepest part of the soul reserved only for absolute truths.
It was all too fresh at the time; she had been gone only thirteen days. My logical earth-brain couldn’t make much sense of anything. But, hearing those three words, I knew what I felt in that moment. I felt peace. And I knew, deep in my heart and soul, he was right. My mom had gone home.
I found comfort in this truth.
I’ve recalled these words countless times since her passing, especially when my earth- brain raises questions like, “What just happened? How will life go on without her? How can I make it through another day? When will my grief end?” And my soul searches questions like, “Where did she go? When will I see her again? How do I access her now?”
When I feel taken by grief, I come back to those words.
She. Is. Home.
And I think, “So, this is it. When we die, we go home. Back to where it all began. Cast back into the universe. If ‘home’ is where we go, by the nature of the word, it can’t be that far away, right?”
I keep breathing. My mind spins. I settle back into my breath. In this moment, I too feel at home. “I am breathing. I am alive. Could my home be here and now?”
I contemplate being alive. I contemplate the continuation of life and relationships.
“Could I be who I am today independently of all those before me? Could those people “be” independent of those before them?” I begin to see how I came to be, long before the day I was born. I carry my parents, their parents, their parents’ parents, and everyone who touched each of their lives. Without them, I could not “be”. In that sense, there is no way to pinpoint my birth, after all.
Going forward, I share my “self”, thus my ancestors, with everyone I meet. My friends, family, my niece, eventually my children, grandchildren, and so on, will know my pre-birth story by knowing me, and that story becomes a part of them, too. I begin to understand that I will live on through others, even after I’m gone. Thus there is no way to pinpoint my death, after all.
Like a rock cast into a river, when the rock splashes, the river’s entire course is shifted slightly, changing everything thereafter. And as the rock settles to the bottom, it creates a new riverbed over which life flows. We, and our loved ones, are the rocks, and when splashed into the river of life, the world is forever changed.
My longing lifts as I realize my mom, dad and friends lost along the way are with me still.
But, even understanding these absolute truths, there is still a lot of adjusting.
Because “going home” means other things to our earth-brain. It meant knowing I could never call, skype or email my mom from my San Diego home again. My home, as I knew it, had forever changed.
Or “going home” to the house in which I was raised, my mother’s home when she passed. Facing the emptiness, the waterfalls of memories and the reality of the physical absence. “Going home” to her home would never be the same. This is the reality for anyone who has lost someone, a child, a parent, a sibling, a spouse, even through a breakup or divorce. “Going home” carries its own set of traumas and pains.
The truth is, things change. You’ve heard it before. The only thing constant is change. Impermanence.
The sooner we can accept that things do change, and will forever continue to, the sooner we can heal. And the deeper we can understand that when things change, we still have our home –and that home is not away from us – the deeper we can heal.
I’m writing from her home now. The house I lived in until I was eighteen. Until we clear it out and sell it, it is my home again. And when I move on and move out, I will bring with me my true home. The home that holds my mother and father, my ancestors, my teachers and friends. The home in the here and now, the home inside of me.
Special thanks to Thich Nhat Hanh for all of the insight gained from my recent retreat: “Finding Our True Home”, and to his book, No Death, No Fear.
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