At Home in the World

In 2002, my mother took a stunning photo of my father reading on the terrace, under the setting sun, and captioned it, “At home in the world.”

9 years later my father would be gone.

Since his death in 2011, that photo has taken on even greater significance for me.

It is one of my favorite images of my father precisely because it captures him at his happiest — reading — but also because of the light of the setting sun.

The sun has become symbolic for me since his death. It broke through the clouds as we left the hospital the day he died, and in that moment, I knew it was my father’s light.

I felt his presence in the sun viscerally that day, and I have felt it in the sun ever since. It is a comfort for me, and a way for me to hold on to my father’s essence.

The image my mother captured is also significant for me because of the title my mother gave it. “At home in the world” is what my parents taught me to feel.

Given that I am bilingual, multiethnic, and possess multi citizenships, it is not always easy for me to feel at home in the world. My identity has been questioned, challenged and disbelieved my entire life.

My parents knew how crucial it was to teach me and my brother to feel at home within. That way we would know that whatever occurred without was not a reflection of who we are.

Like my father, I am most at home reading. Reading brings me peace, calm and is balm for my soul.

It has been even more so since my father’s death. When I read, as when the sun shines, I feel closest to his ethereal presence.

This will be my 10th fatherless Father’s Day, and as with every Father’s Day since 2012, I reflect on the man who gave me life.

I could not have been luckier with the father I had. He loved me wholly and unconditionally.

He encouraged me to know and speak my mind.

He taught me to defy the status quo and to be the change I want to see.

He (and my mother) gave me my strength of soul.

But perhaps the most valuable lesson my father taught me was to feel at home in the world.

Thank you, Daddy. I am because you were.

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Naomi Raquel

Naomi Raquel

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Bilingual. New Yorker. Multiethnic. Change Agent. Author of “Strength of Soul” (2Leaf Press; University of Chicago Press, April 2019)