Going Home

As I get older I sometimes long for home, and a time and place long before this place that is now home. If you have read the story of my first home and early years: The House on Sunny Street, you will know that going home to that exact physical location and visiting with my beloved family of origin there can not happen any more. But, I have learned that, thank God, there are many ways to go home again. Going home is any time we can connect with members of our chosen or given families and loved ones wherever they may be. And going home is when we can return to the place of our birth ,growing years, and earlier lives. Home for me now is in Fort Myers, Florida and it has been becoming my home since 1998 when I retired from fourteen years of being a Professor of Social Work at the University of Connecticut School of Social Work. Then I made my home near the school in West Hartford, Ct. Before that I was on the faculties of Columbia University SSW and NYU SSW and Manhattan was my home.   And before that for thirty-three years Brooklyn was my home. Our Good Shepherd family members and other chosen family here are home for us now. Yet, for me home will always be in Brooklyn, New York and New York City and in connecting with those who were part of that home and will always have a home in my heart. Thomas Wolf was wrong: you can go home again.

When we took our Good Shepherd kids to Washington D.C. in September I was able to connect with a sister friend from my youth,Martha Andrews Gentry. We were close friends throughout our teen years. Martha and I last saw each other at the second reunion of our Bethany church Youth Group in 2007.  Since then both of us faced and overcame serious life threatening illnesses and we both attribute our healing to faith in our loving God as much as to today’s advances in science and medicine. We were so happy to see each other as these photos show.  IMG_0131

We were also so happy to share our friendship with our Good Shepherd Youth. Martha is an artist and taught High School art as well. The teens were so happy to be welcomed into her lovely home, replete with her art and that of some of her students. It was exciting for all of us to join the very senior members of the Bethany Youth Group with the Good Shepherd Youth, coming full circle in a very special way.

IMG_0129Our Girls at Martha’s house with Martha in the background. 

IMG_0128How wonderful to be with Martha again! Martha is also a lay minister in her church, so here are the three pastorsIMG_0132

Also wonderful was having my closest cousin/sister Jackie Weinmann Marion of Colombia, Maryland join us in Washington for two days.  This was the icing on the cake!

Jackie with Felice and Natasha

IMG_0133It was also a blessing to meet with RCWP Bishop Andrea Johnson who gave a blessing to our young people.

IMG_0157Pastor Judy Beaumont and Bishop Andrea Johnson 

From October 10th -13th Judy B and I  were blessed to be able to go home to New York. The first person we were privileged to see was 90 year old Sim, or Aunt, Way Kam Lee. Sim is my former husband’s paternal Aunt and Sim and I had many wonderful experiences together in the 1960’s and in later visits . We laughed a lot as we helped each other with language and aculturation to each other’s cultures. This is Sim with the literal fruits of her summer’s labor. She grew these extraordinary fruits in her garden in Baldwin, New York and has just finished harvesting them.  Not only are they huge but they are heavy and yet she got each one into her basement for safe keeping. Here she is giving a “shark fin soup melon” to our driver Edward who is also Chinese. She also informed us that last year she got tired of waiting for painters to come so she painted her house inside and out-at 89!!!  She also works out at the gym every other day. She is truly amazing!

Sim, Way Kam LeeIMG_0024IMG_0027IMG_0026

Our next stop was our hotel in Westbury, LI where Cousin Pat Sullivan-King picked us up to pick up Cousin Dorothy Shotwell Stewart in Oakdale for a celebration in Sayeville for the whole family. We were celebrating Cousin Dorothy’s 92nd September 20th Birthday and Cousin Bobby Robinson’s 80th Birthday on October 9th. We were also celebrating the coming together of five generations of Shotwells and three branches of this family that has been in America since 1650. We were overjoyed at  having so many of the younger members joining with us.

IMG_0053This is Cousin Bob with his wife Barbara and Cousin Pat and Cousin Dorothy(seated). Cousin Dorothy is the daughter of our Grandmother Ella’s brother Henry Shotwell. Cousin Pat is my Grandmother Ella’s sister Augusta’s (Gussie’s) granddaughter. We met each other about eight years ago through the genealogical studies of Bob, and Dorothy’s sister, Lorraine Edith Shotwell Walton, now gone home to God, and Pat’s daughter in law, Beth. How blessed it is to be united with family. At 92 Cousin Dorothy is still doing her very beautiful and accomplished art work and caring for herself and her cat. Her sons and grandchildren live nearby and visit often. She is also truly amazing. And suddenly Bobby and I feel young!

Here I am with Bob’s family, his daughter Kathy and son Ken and his wife, Lisa, and Kathy’s children, Jordan, just returned from Naval deployment in Afghanistan,Michelle and Travis Jay,15, and his grand children with Viviana Arcos, Jordan’s Colombian wife and and Efren Johannes Knoppert, his great grand son.  IMG_0049

This is Ken and Lisa, Kathy and George and Lori Whitlatch Post, who was present at my Ordination and visits us in Florida. IMG_0046

This is Bob and me with Richie Dougherty and Lillian Dougherty Ebner,our cousins. 

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This is Lillian with her daughter April and her son Mason Gerald who is just a year old.

IMG_0030These are our newest cousins meeting for the first time, Efren Johannes Knoppert and Mason Gerald Andresen. 

IMG_0051 And this is our five generations of the Shotwell clan and spouses gathered for a group photo. What a blessed evening! 

The next three days were spent in New York City and Brooklyn. Here we stayed in an apartment of a friend of Danny’s on the 32nd floor in the West Village.This is the view from the window. We could also see the Empire State Building and both rivers!

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IMG_0056  This is Bob and Danielle and Laura our chosen family members. Danielle is a retired social work practitioner and educator and long time special friend. When 911 occurred she was one of the social workers who gave her time to work with those who experienced tragic losses. Her other passion is youth group work and she is looking forward to meeting our Good Shepherd teens. She and Bob contribute generously to our ministry. Bob is a retired Distinguished Professor of Business at NYU. Danielle and I met Laura when we worked with homeless women in New York in the early 1980’s. Through a series of events Laura, a devout Jew found herself in a women’s shelter. We helped her to move on and she in turn gave her life to helping others who faced homelessness. Her mitzvot life teaches us about giving oneself for others. Each time we come to New York  Judy B and I visit with her and she is our inspiration.

Here we are exploring the HIgh Line Park in Chelsea, an area turned into an urban forest like garden on an elevated railroad track. And so we learned that even a big city can become green and change for the better. IMG_0058Judy B. with Danielle and Laura

Of course, Brooklyn never lags far behind Manhattan and the next day we explored DUMBO, the new waterfront area of Brooklyn Down Under Manhattan Brooklyn Overpass, meaning under the Brooklyn Bridge. This area is reclaimed from garbage, and decayed buildings and rats. It is now very upscale, but one wonders where the ordinary folks can afford to live. We also wondered about the many homeless people sleeping in the streets in lower Manhattan. Some of it is attributable to the affordability of new and powerful synthetic street drugs but, as Laura said in outrage, this is unacceptable. We reflected that to have a home is a blessing and a human right that everybody deserves.  Encountering the number of homeless sleeping on the streets of the city is how I was called by God to serve the homeless in the early eighties. I just could not tolerate the inhumanity in permitting this. It is clear that homelessness remains a major social justice issue NOW. How sad-and what a challenge!

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One of my joys was to visit the NYU faculty housing where I initially lived while teaching at NYU.   I loved this third floor apartment with the tree in the windows and balcony over the court yard. This bit of green kept me sane in the city.

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It was hard to leave my beloved New York City and extended family there, but I was equally happy to get home to Fort Myers and my family here.

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with love and prayers,

Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP,

Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community of Fort Myers

2 responses to “Going Home”

  1. Pete Lee says :

    Always great to read your thougths and remembrances of our “home” in Brooklyn and photos of your extended family, and of course, the other “family from Bethany Methodist Church – including Martha Andrews Gentry. Thanks for sharing – it’s all good and the Lord has truly blessed us all. Amen.

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