Hey everyone, it’s been a while… Life has been very chaotic for some time. However, there are countless lessons to take away from this series, so much so, that I felt impelled to come out of my prolonged period of procrastination and apprehension to post – just to share my reflections. So, what can be said about the new series that has brought so many of us across the globe to floods of tears? Firstly, I think it is poignant to acknowledge that the series is based on the true story and memoir written by author, producer and actress, Tembi Locke; making the series even more special.
From Scratch portrays a painful, yet relatable journey through love, loss, passion, creativity, contrasting cultures and persevering in the midst of adversity. It has to be the most heartbreaking, triggering, yet beautifully executed series I’ve ever watched. Zoe Saldaña embodied the role of Amahle impeccably. In fact, the entire cast were exceptional. Every key moment was truly moving. It all felt so raw and so real! Honestly, by the end of the series, my eyes were sore and swollen from crying. Whilst watching the story unfold, I couldn’t help but think that From Scratch felt like a cross between Eat, Pray, Love, The Notebook, Our Family Wedding, Jumping The Broom and Chef (all brilliant films in their own right). So, if you enjoyed those, you’ll definitely want to watch this one (with plenty of tissues and a cosy blanket, of course).
I hope that for those who have watched it already (and those who haven’t), this blog post will resonate with you in some way.
Trigger Warning: Cancer, death & family dysfunction.
** Spoiler Alert: Some scenes will be referenced.**
So, I thought it best to begin with an overview of the themes and messages I reflected on throughout the series, as the plot unravelled.
The main lessons that stood out to me, were:
1) The importance of being in a relationship with someone who believes in your dreams just as much as theirs. One who shares, supports and invests in your vision and purpose.
2) The importance of being assertive and setting boundaries with toxic/overbearing family members.
3) Travelling the world and experiencing different cultures is such a crucial part of life. It not only enriches your inner world and perspective; enabling you to immerse in different cultures, but it also helps to dispel unconscious bias and ignorance.
4) We have to protect our peace of mind at all costs (now, I know I often speak on this, but it’s so important). Sometimes we have to love certain people from a distance, if it is far too painful and damaging to try and love them up close. It doesn’t mean we love them any less.
5) No family is perfect, but so much more can be achieved when families are unified – especially when it matters most. We get to see how divorce can affect both parents and children and how this impacts on the way they build and maintain adult relationships. It was clear that when selfishness was no longer the driving force, the family thrived – despite their differences. There is more power in unity, than there is in division, but unfortunately some fail to realise the true value in that – especially when consumed by ego.
6) Love can find you in the most unexpected ways and in various forms. When choosing a life partner, status, accolades and romance are not enough. We have to exercise wisdom when considering who has the ability to truly honour the vows: “for better or worse” and “in sickness and in health.” It’s about choosing the one who is worth fighting for (and with) when the storms of life are raging and you’re faced with frightening levels of uncertainty. It’s also imperative to have difficult conversations when relationship dynamics change; effective communication is key. When all is said and done, we should always aim to choose the person who can love, serve/support and encourage us unconditionally and unapologetically.
7) Having strong core values and faith can help you endure and overcome the most toughest experiences life can throw at you. It was touching to see Lino’s mother turn to prayer at every hurdle – and she prayed without ceasing, until the very end. A powerful reminder and example of unshakeable faith.
8) It truly takes a village. Terminal cancer not only affects the individual suffering with it in adverse ways, but also the close family and friends watching their loved one wither away. Witnessing them becoming a shell of themselves until they take their last breath is one of the most heartbreaking experiences. Thus, having a solid, empathic and dependable support network to do what needs to be done during seasons of distress is a crucial part of the healing process. It lightens the heavy load (physically, emotionally, spiritually and even financially). Watching Amahle & Lino’s family and friends rally round without hesitation or question, was so heart-warming to witness. However, I understand that unfortunately, some people may not be as blessed or privileged to access continued support, and so in those cases, it can be an even lonelier road to travel.
“I’m unsure which pain is worse – the shock of what happened or the ache for what never will.”Unknown
Grief and loss is a subject very dear to my heart, especially due to losing my dad to terminal cancer in 2019. I experienced the biggest loss thus far – and my heart still hasn’t been able to fully comprehend it. Watching From Scratch obviously regurgitated some painful, yet familiar emotions. I definitely shed some tears during the most gut-wrenching scenes. I think the way the actors (both young and old) portrayed what it looks like to navigate the complexity of being in the pit of grief; trying to support each other whilst still figuring out how to be a mother/daughter/sister simultaneously – all whilst trying to honour a loved one’s wishes, was very relatable. It also helped me realise that sometimes empathy with a pinch of ‘tough love’ can be the gentle nudge that we need to remember to keep fighting and never give up. Having said that, it’s never easy. Although there are a few grief cycles/models, such as the Kübler-Ross ‘5 Stages of Grief’ and Worden’s ‘4 Tasks of Mourning’, the journey is rarely ever linear. In fact, it feels more like an emotional and experiential rollercoaster with no end in sight.
There was a moment where a despondent Amahle walked to the bathroom, closed the door and gasped before bursting into tears, which was such a powerful and cathartic moment. It was so relatable – especially for those of us who’ve been in the role of ‘caregiver’; having to be the source of strength for not only the loved one who is ill, but for so many others – all whilst subconsciously sacrificing our own self-care and time to process anticipatory grief. From a therapeutic standpoint, after suppressing emotional pain for a prolonged period of time, it is inevitable that one will eventually explode/overflow with a complexity of emotions. So it truly does help to be surrounded and supported by loved ones who can listen and be a shoulder to cry/lean on. Moreover, accessing therapy (when possible) also aids the grieving process. Being able to offload to a neutral professional, who is trained or even specialises in loss and bereavement provides a sense of relief (and release). If you or a loved one is struggling with grief, you can check your local listings for counselling services (UK based).
From Scratch also highlighted that stubbornness, ignorance and holding a grudge can be fatal. We shouldn’t have to wait until someone becomes seriously ill before we consider laying pride aside and making peace with those we claim to love. I have witnessed and come to learn all too well, the impact of ego and pride in these circumstances. Furthermore, it should always be the duty and responsibility of the patriarch or matriarch of any family to encourage forgiveness and family cohesion. However, I’m sure many of us could relate with Lino’s father’s ‘wrong and strong’ mentality, as well as his (seemingly) blissful ignorance and avoidance throughout most of the series. In many cultures, the head of a family is to be revered and respected – no matter the circumstances; even despite being ridiculed and belittled for following your dreams and passions. Holding grudges (especially for trivial reasons) always does more harm than good for all involved.
Watching Lino’s decline in health, was so traumatic. However, before his last moments, one of the most heartfelt scenes (that I couldn’t find a still image of), was when Lino and his father were alone at the dining table, having a heart to heart (or sharing some home truths – depending on how you perceive it). At the moment when Lino uttered: “I’m tired, Papa. I can’t keep fighting both you and the disease [cancer]”, my heart sank. I truly empathised with his inner turmoil. Even in the face of death, his father still couldn’t seem to comprehend all that his own foolish pride had cost him; years and years of various milestones and especially missing his only son’s wedding. However, there was another breakthrough moment and glimmer of hope in the garden scene before Lino’s parents left California (but again, I won’t say too much, as I don’t want to ruin if for those who haven’t watched yet).
Perhaps (and this is the therapist in me speaking), Lino’s dad was simply afraid of being forgotten and abandoned by his only son, who he loved dearly. Especially since he probably had dreams of Lino following in his footsteps, remaining in Sicily to continue the family trade and tradition. However, he was more concerned about being judged and ostracised by his own community for Lino’s choices than he was about maintaining a healthy relationship with his son. This in turn, had serious ramifications for the rest of the family, as they also felt they had no choice but to show blind obedience, despite him being in the wrong. Even Amahle’s father took some time to adjust to and accept her dreams of being an artist instead of a rich Lawyer. However, once he realised it was her true calling and passion, he eventually supported her.
As we saw unfold on screen, there eventually has to come a time where the person who is ostracised for cultivating and following their own path (outside of cultural tradition and social norms), has to have a utilitarian approach to life: “the greatest amount of good, for the greatest amount of people.” This often requires going against the opinions and expectations of a few – regardless of their standing/position in our lives, in order to achieve the best outcome. Be it for a community you want to support or impact, the majority of relatives or your own little family one day.
Gone are the days when we have to live up to the selfish, unrealistic expectations of others. Sometimes the pride and bitterness some elders have, is as a result of their own projected failures or unaccomplished dreams. We have to break these toxic family cycles in the name of ‘tradition’ and chase after our dreams, even if it means others will observe from a distance in disapproval. That is their burden to carry, not ours. We absolutely must walk in our purpose once we discover it, because it was never about living to please ‘man’, but about living in God’s plan and will for us. Yes, we may ruffle some feathers or encounter various hurdles along the way, but as long as we have true vision, live authentically and move with integrity, that is all that matters in the end.
Death can either draw everyone together or expose the cracks in the foundation; forcing some to go their separate ways. Thankfully – in this case, the candid moments shared between the close-knit families were so beautiful. A true sight for my sore eyes! The final scenes depicting the unity and integration of two beautiful, yet complex families in the heart of Sicily, finding pockets of joy and gratitude – in the midst of grieving (and celebrating) their loved one, was such a pivotal moment that unfortunately, Lino didn’t get the chance to experience. However, that was the ‘collateral beauty’ of it all.
In summary, if From Scratch (and the last few years) have taught us anything, it would be that ultimately: Life is precious and extremely short. Tomorrow is not promised for any of us, so we should love our nearest and dearest as much as we can, for as long as we can. Death is unfortunately an existential given, that many of us will be forced to experience at different points of our journeys through life. Moreover, the true tests and lessons come in the aftermath of losing someone you love; trying to navigate and adjust around their absence, whilst feeling the hollowness of the void that remains. This is all the more reason to live intentionally, love intensely and give freely.
Ps: You can check out the From Scratch official trailer here.
Sending love, light and prayers to those who are grieving – at any stage.
~ Gifted Lily 🙏🏾💛✨