Sunny Side Up: Homes are more than just brick and mortar

  • Living
  • Monday, 17 Sep 2018

Photo: TNS

Over the past week, I’ve been reflecting on how life uses its nature of change as a constant reminder to live fully, here in the present.

As some readers will recall from a previous column, my dad recently sold the family home in Scotland following his retirement, and bought a new place in a luscious, scenic part of the country.

I was (and still am) delighted that he now gets to enjoy life and relax after more than 40 years of hard work and providing for me, my two sisters, and my late mum. There’s no describing the depth of gratitude that I have for the man who gave us everything. I try my best now to encourage him to indulge himself, although I’m sure he’ll take some time getting used to it.

Last weekend, I had my first Skype conversation with my dad in his new place, and after getting a peek at his impressive new abode, it suddenly hit me that someone new was living in the house I called home for 30 years. New memories are being made in the place where most of mine were born. It was a sobering moment, one I didn’t expect.

After our conversation ended, I sat on my bed and thought for a while about the ups and downs I had known in the old place. The thought that I’d never again set foot inside the door caught me off guard. Admittedly, I teared up when it hit me that this particular chapter was truly closed.

People say that homes are just bricks and mortar, but they’re more than that. To many of us, our family home is the place that (literally) measured us as we grew up. It has seen all of our joys and known our sorrows; met our first loves and heartaches; and has stood strong through our proud milestones and painful setbacks. It’s been the best keeper of all our secrets, big and small.

It was lovely to be able to spend a few moments to process all of this. Some might suppress their nostalgic sadness, but I found comfort in mine. Whatever feelings arose, I simply let them be, inviting them like old friends to make their home in the space I provided.

My mum would often advise me, “Whenever you feel down, let the feelings come. Take the time to know them. Laugh, cry, scream – do whatever you need to do. But don’t dwell on them for too long. Feelings come and go on their own if you let them be; it’s only when we try to hold on to them that we suffer.”

Her advice came to mind just as I was done with my reflections. She was the tour de force of our family, and was the biggest part of what made our house a home. When she died in the home to which she gave life, a large part of its spirit seemed to leave with her. But thankfully, all the rich memories that make up a lifetime are forever portable – we carry them around with us always.

As families grow and spread their wings, and as the people within them move on to write their own stories, life whispers to us that it’s in the turning of the page that each tale continues. We shouldn’t feel sad at the pages already turned. We should be thankful that each page points the way to a new twist in the plot, where the characters will soon see their stories unfold.

Finally, I was reminded of a central tenet found in the Buddha’s teaching: Nothing that’s conditioned is ever permanent. It was never intended to be a glum reminder that all things must pass. On the contrary, the teachings encourage us to live fully in the here and now. They invite us to appreciate our blessings and cultivate more of the conditions that have given us the wonderful people and the joys we come to know in this life.

Life constantly evolves and changes. If we don’t pay enough attention, it feels as though the changes arrive too soon. I can vividly remember playing football in the school that was right next to my house; I was 12-years-old, and my mum brought various bottles of soda for my friends and me from the grocery van that would come to our street.

The memory stands out because it was the first time she heard me swearing. She scolded me for it, but I felt it was unfair. She said, “You shouldn’t be swearing at your age.” I replied, “You shouldn’t be listening to our game!” My mum conceded to my point with a smile, and would often recall the moment to friends and family throughout the years.

Our old family home was kind enough to help us create wonderful memories spanning three decades. I’ll always be grateful to the bricks and mortar for having us stay awhile. Now that we’ve all moved on, I’m looking forward to seeing what the next chapter has in store for us.

Sandy Clarke has long held an interest in emotions, mental health, mindfulness and meditation. He believes the more we understand ourselves and each other, the better societies we can create. If you have any questions or comments, e-mail

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