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As another year comes to an end, I think about how, as a younger person, I looked forward to New Year’s Eve parties and counting down the seconds with friends and welcoming the new year. Now I’m usually asleep by 11! Even today we always seem to think the new year has to be better than the last one and we are glad to see it end.

Now that I’m older, I realize there is never a guarantee of a year without stress, struggles, and disappointments. My brother passed away in March after a long battle with liver disease. I took him to the emergency room in Atlanta and soon after he became incoherent and struggled to breathe for the remaining hours of his life. I was alone with him when his last breath was taken and his life on earth ended. I remember saying to him in those last moments: “I never knew you had such beautiful blue eyes,” not knowing if he heard me. The next days were filled with sorrow but fond memories resurfaced. He had a great sense of humor and a heart of gold. He rescued stray dogs and cats and took them to the vet for their shots and to be neutered and spayed. He did this for many years and I honestly think his determination to save animals prolonged his life even though his pain grew stronger.

He also “rescued” people. After he died and I was getting the house ready to sell in Atlanta, numerous people, including neighbors, came by to share their memories of him. He had several rental homes in Candler Park over the years and was a great landlord. One lady shared how, when she needed a house with her young daughter and couldn’t get a loan, he owner financed one of his own for her at a very low rate. Years later she asked him why he did that and he said: ”Because you and your daughter needed a place to live.” There were many other similar stories shared by others about him. During the last year of his life he was feeding a homeless man who lived under a bridge, even making Thanksgiving dinner for him. He took him blankets and made sure he was never too cold.

So you see the word “home” has so many meanings. To an innocent animal it is a place to be fed and have shelter and a human with whom to share unconditional love.
To a family who can’t get a mortgage, a home is a place of shelter to make lifelong memories, even if it involves a financial struggle. To homeless people it is a corner of the sidewalk or under a bridge, where they hope kind people will help with food and blankets.

My brother was gay, and, being 10 years older than me, grew up in an era when the closet doors stayed closed. How sad that he lived in a time when hatred for gay people was rampant while his heart remained full of love for others. Perhaps the pain he endured led to his compassion for those who struggled and had no one, including humans and animals.

We can sell you a cute cottage or a mountain mansion but you must create the beautiful memories that will last a lifetime. May your new year be filled with people who care and your home be filled with love. Home truly is where the heart is. Happy New Year to all!

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