Past Lives

by Amelia Kanan

The one who taught me where we come from to then abandon those beliefs.

Thanks to a boyfriend and a trip to Tibet my mother’s mom, best known as Gammy, found herself submerged in Buddhism. I was young and naive to Gam Gam’s flippant lifestyle so when she told me she believed in something, I took it seriously. As is their tradition, Gammy and my mom told me everything and as is my tradition, I listened closely. Buddha’s teachings, karma, His Holiness, reincarnation, and of course, how birthmarks are signs of how you died in your previous life.

Gammy, enthralled with the idea of reincarnation, decided to have a regression. It turned out, in her most recent past life, Gammy had been an African man who was lynched. This, she felt, gave logical reason for her intolerance of wearing anything around her neck like necklaces or turtlenecks, her unexplained habit of always walking on the left side of the street, and her strong connection to “everything tribal” from Africa.

However, as quickly as Gammy had gotten into Buddhism, she got out of it and after a few other soul-searching pursuits, Gammy settled in on being a “humanist”. Even though she admits that most of what she hears at her monthly Humanist lectures goes over her head, she’s pretty set in this philosophy to date.

However, my Catholic mom and I held fast to some of those Eastern teachings. When my mom came to visit me for her birthday a few years ago in Los Angeles, I took her hiking. As I climbed the trail ahead of her by a few feet (my approach to pushing her walk faster up hill), I asked her, “Who do you think you were in a past life?”

Without skipping a beat she said “A Candadian Mounty”.

I laughed and said “Seriously, a Mounty, mom? That’s so butch.”

She was panting. “Yes. I love horses, mysteries and detectives, and I have a strong belief in upholding the law.”

I shut-up. She nailed it.

Then she asked me what I think I was. And like her, without skipping a beat, I responded.

“Well, I have been on this Earth many times before this. And I know for a fact there are at least 4 souls that I am close to in this life that have been with me before.”


“Oh, yeah. Not you though, because you’re a new soul, Mom. You’re very young. “ I looked back to show her how serious my face was, about this.


“But, I did choose you to be my mom, so that’s kind of cool.”

“You did?”

I stopped walking to let her catch up to me, “Definitely. You’re too amazing of a mom for an old soul like me not to choose you.”

“Thanks, honey.” She had stopped too, thinking we were taking some kind of break.

“You’re welcome but come on, mom. We have to keep walking and faster.”

“Ok. Ok.”

“Anyway, my soul is definitely old but I can only feel my life prior to this one.” I closed my eyes, as if I was trying to access the connection. “I was a royal, who was from France I think, but I’m still iffy on where I was born. But, what I do know for sure is that I travelled to Africa to be a part of the colonization.


“And, once I got there I got very close to the natives and saw what was really happening. Killing and enslaving and horrible things so, I tried to protect the people I had grown to love. But, I got caught and someone shot me in the stomach.”

“Ohh, my.”

“Yeah, I think it was my husband who did it.”

“Did you see a movie like this?”

“No. I have birthmark on my bellybutton.”

She laughed and told me that I have an amazing imagination. I told her I don’t think I do because I just draw from my experiences. She laughed again even though I was being serious. It’s ok though because I love making my mom laugh.