Empty Bus, Invisible Homes and Fading Memories

I returned to my home province a week before Halloween to pay my respects at my mother’s grave and attend to some personal errands.

It would take a couple of hours or so by bus to reach my destination. I was worried that, as it was a week before the holiday, the buses might already be jam-packed. But to my surprise, there were still some empty bus seats, so I was able to sit comfortably by the window and indulge in my favorite activity of introspection while looking out at the rapidly changing scenery.

During the bus ride there, as I reflected on the process of healing from sadness and unforgiveness, the wisdom in the saying “what you see won’t harm you” has never been more accurate than on that day.

Forgiving what cannot be forgotten

One of the highlights of my trip was when I went to my brother’s place to make a peace offering, putting an end to our years-long rift. It surprisingly went well. I went to his place, not knowing what to expect, but I mustered the courage and, of course, I prayed for the angels to “go before me,” so I wouldn’t be taken by surprise at his reaction to my visit.

As I approached their front door, I called out softly, and his wife peeked out. Hesitatingly, I asked her if she could pass the bag of goodies I had brought for my brother. She called my brother, and he emerged from a dimly lit room, calling out my first name enthusiastically. When I saw him, I couldn’t help but cry and express how much I had missed him.

We exchanged numbers, and I continued on my way. We forgave each other without delving into the past rift. For me, it’s no longer relevant because rehashing it would only reopen irreconcilable differences. There’s a time for everything, even discussing past issues. When resolving disputes with loved ones, I have learned that reaching out to forgive and seek forgiveness is the first step. It’s like saying that whatever transpired in the past should remain there, focusing on the healing process through forgiveness first.

Invisible house

Another memorable moment during my trip was passing by my late mother’s old house. She had sold it a couple of years before her passing.  

To my surprise, the old flat had been demolished, replaced by a new modern bungalow. I hardly recognized the place: It was previously an unpainted flat bungalow with white-painted window grills, surrounded by a mix of ornamental and herbal plants, including oregano, which emitted a unique and calming scent. Now, all of that was gone, and a new modern bungalow occupied the lot. There was no trace of my mother’s memories there. Reflecting on this, I couldn’t decide if it was good or bad because I was uncertain about how I would feel if I had seen my mother’s old house. The new house acted as proof that my mom was no longer on this earth.

 On the same day, I also passed by the area of our ancestral home, and it was now replaced by a row of commercial stalls. Our family history was erased along with the demolition of our ancestral home, and it’s a profound sadness. When my parents sold that house, their decision hurt us, the children. I feel that some of my siblings secretly harbored hatred for my parents because of what they did.

Now that the ancestral house is no longer there, it has become an invisible house that only exists in memory.

I wish I could emphasize enough to people not to sell their ancestral homes, as it means relinquishing their family history and memories that can never be captured in pictures.

Liberation by omission

At my mother’s gravesite, I stood there, watching the small flickering candles and mentally tracing the faded letters of her name on the stone tablet. Even the engravings were barely visible, and it was challenging to make out the inscriptions. Five years may not seem like a long time when you watch a child grow, but for a grieving heart, especially for the loss of a family member, five years can feel like an eternity.

It’s hard to keep memories alive, especially to recall accurate details of the time you spent with your loved ones when they were alive.Memories fade with time, leaving behind impressions from images and feelings that can only be communicated through storytelling – but are no longer the same. Over time, the essence of their existence (or, memory of their existence) evolves or vanishes. It makes you wonder if it’s all part of the healing process. I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling a sense of guilt when I struggle to remember the face of a departed loved one or don’t think about them as often as before.

Does this process of fading memories help the heart recover by keeping it from being continuously reminded of the past and the scars that remain? Or is it the heart refusing to remember?

“Different kinds of ability to act are distinguished. It is argued that lacking some kinds can preclude a failure to act from counting as an omission or an instance of refraining, while lacking others does not. Further, one can have an ability not to perform any action of some type, and one can freely omit to do a certain thing. One’s freedom in omitting shares many features with freedom in acting, but generally it is not exactly the same thing.”

-Clarke, Randolph, ‘Omissions, Abilities, and Freedom’, Omissions: Agency, Metaphysics, and Responsibility  

While at the cemetery, I spoke to my mother. To be honest, I felt lighter – no longer consumed by grief and depression. A small butterfly came by, and if I were to believe in superstitions, I would say that my mother heard me. However, I rely on my intuition. As I mentioned earlier, I felt light, and I believe this is the feeling conveyed by my mother’s spirit. She is no longer burdened by unfinished business or unresolved mistakes. Everything is now in its rightful place, and my mother’s spirit is finally free.

And so is my heart as I make my way to the bus terminal to head home.

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