In old Welsh language, the word Hiraeth refers to a homesickness towards a place that one can no longer return to; of something lost. It can also refer to a nostalgic type of longing of things and places past. There is no direct translation of this word in the English language. I think this in and of itself is symbolic of the fact that the feeling encompassed by Hiraeth is so immense and deep that we have not yet found a way to translate it. We all have places of our past- it may be a childhood home, an experience that we wish to return to, or simply the longing for a life previously lived.
We have all experienced hiraeth, in one form or another, whether or not we were able to express it at the time.
I think we have all, at some point in our life had to grieve over things lost. We grieve change, we feel immense sorrow over the things in our lives that have vanished due to the hands of time. This feeling has been something very real to me lately, as a loved one of mine is in the process of selling their home and moving somewhere that they can be better cared for, and in close companionship with those who are dear to her. All involved have had a hard time coping with the loss of this place that has brought us all great joy and laughter, as well as endless beautiful memories. I know that the memories lie within her, and within each of our minds and souls, and they will not vanish when this place is no longer ours to enjoy. But still, the essence of that change and physical loss is heartbreaking and difficult to cope with.
As human beings, we seem to have a strong emotional attachment to places. We tend to have a very difficult time giving up past homes and moving to different towns. It’s almost as if we are living vines- we find a place where we can thrive and we plant our roots so deep that leaving is no easy task. In Night Train to Lisbon, Pascal Mercier writes, “We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place, we stay there, even though we go away. And there are things in us that we can find again only by going back there.” This quote accurately describes the way that our homes and favorite places can become engrained in our soul. They become a part of us, and even when we leave, they stay with us for the rest of our lives.
I am going to miss my grandmother’s home. I will miss the creak of the old gate that leads up to the back door, and the way that as a child, and even now, I can run up the sidewalk, eagerly waiting to see her smiling face as she opens the door. I will remember the gentle creak of her bed from years and years of sleepovers with grandkids and late nights spent reading before bed. I will long to hear the gentle hum of the buzzing ceiling fan above the table where hundreds of card games were played. My grandmother’s home holds a special place in my heart, and it always will. This place is one in which I have always felt loved and cherished, and inexplicably happy. What I have come to realize, is that these things will remain even when the house no longer does, because these things aren’t tied to the house, they’re tied to her.
I understand the feeling of Hiraeth, and now more than ever, I can understand how overwhelming it is. I have experienced the sorrow and the longing that comes from it, and I can sympathize with the feeling one may feel when having to depart from a beloved place. We value our homes, we treasure them because they make us who we are, but we never really lose them. Granted, they are often places to which we cannot return, but they remain a part of us, the laughter and memories and tears embedded into the essence of our very souls. I am sorrowful that I must say goodbye to my grandmother’s home. I will miss that place, and I am certain that I will long for it for years to come, but I am thankful that it will always be a part of me. Although I may feel a great deal of homesickness towards it, it will always be in my heart, soul, and most of all, my memory. More than anything, I am grateful that I was blessed with a place that gave me so much to miss.