One of the biggest shifts in my life came when I graduated from college. I had lost my mom halfway through school. I was devastated and was looking for a place to call home. I had what many post-graduate college students recall as a tension. The tension lies between being completely free to make your own decisions and utterly alone, untethered and prone towards being reckless. I was the first in my family to graduate from college and walking into the unknown. One week after graduating from college I moved everything I own down to south Florida. This happened because of a conversation I had with my Aunt a few months prior. I was feeling anxious, not knowing where to go since losing my mom and finishing school. I was born and raised in the Northeastern part of the country and it seemed that chapter was closing. During a trip to Florida my Aunt and I were walking slowly on the pier when she spoke healing words that not only brought relief, they also provided direction,

“You can come live here with us. We’re your family and we love you very much.”

This is not the first time my Aunt and Uncle showered me with love. After my parent’s divorce my mom did the best she could, but we still were in need of help. My Aunt and Uncle have provided our family everything from a working stove to a brand new car! There’s also my first birthday after losing my mom. I was feeling lonely and depressed. Most of my peers didn’t know it. When my Uncle and Aunt showed up they took me out for hibachi, we still talk about it today! After dinner we went to see the Blue Man Group in New York City! I remember coming back on campus feeling loved so well. It was a healing balm amidst such pain.

A few years later when my brother returned on his ship in the Navy my Uncle and Aunt invited me to go with them to Hawaii for this occasion. Up to that point the furthest West I had been was to Chicago when my brother started boot camp! The trip to Hawaii was eye opening and slowly my Aunt and Uncle began untangling my comfort with impoverished thinking. My Uncle has always been a hard working man that loves his family and took great risks as an entrepreneur. I am convinced that it’s because of watching and learning from him that I believed I could also start my own business and today I absolutely love the practice and the work I can do daily to help others.

Even during the most reckless time of my life while living in Florida I knew that each time it was my birthday I had a place to stay and my Aunt would make me any meal I desired. I chose her meatballs every year, because they were simply the best! Each holiday I knew I had a place where I belonged. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, my Aunt and Uncle created a home for me.

When my Aunt became sick with cancer I wanted to take time to be with her. I called and let her know that I would like to spend a few days with her. She said, “Well, Josh you can come, but I’m not much fun these days. I just drink coffee and watch movies each day.” That of course is my dream vacation. We did just that and the trip was just what was needed to make a deep connection. To this date, that has been the best vacation I can remember! When I reflected on the trip, here is what I realized,

At a time when we often retreat to or find solace with our phones, I received a mindful moment of comfort this summer. I took a purposeful trip to be with my aunt and uncle. We moved away from our phones and drank coffee, took to the newspaper, and talked as we worked on the crossword puzzles together. Time seemed to stand still. The results were mindful eye contact, slowed breathing, sound thinking, and days without being ruled by notifications.

This past November my Aunt who was more than just an Aunt to me passed away. She was the matriarch of the family. I am forever thankful to my Aunt and Uncle because they literally changed my life. My Aunt went on to come to see me when I completed my graduate degree and also when I finished the clinical training to be a Licensed Professional Counselor. Knowing I had that support made an incredible impact on my life. By opening her home and providing me a place to belong I was able to receive a deep sense of love and a place to call home!