Thursday, February 24, 2011
What is home to you?
Is it an address, a zip code, a region? Does it smell like cut grass or feel like childhood sandboxes beneath your feet?
Does your home shift in its shape...a dinner table of four, a pew of eight, a bed of two, a church of hundreds...
Does your home have different faces...faces of children hoped for, faces with wrinkled wisdom, faces of similar siblings and close cousins...
My physical home changes, but my heart's home is always recognized, regardless of the season.
My Great Uncle Jim went Home last Saturday. His beloved wife had passed a short time before, but I was unable to make it to her celebration of life service. This past Wednesday, my little family and I traveled to Four Oaks, NC to honor Uncle Jim.
That is home to me. I hug and squeeze aunts and uncles; I sample butter beans, fried chicken, and specialty fruit salads. I watch as Jonah toddles between 80-year-old legs and dodges canes, unaware that his presence is comforting in our sorrow: a reminder of life and living and faith.
I sit in a wooden pew that is worn slick from many before me...weddings, meetings, church celebrations, funerals. It feels like home. The pastor shares stories of Uncle Jim, and I am at home as a kindergartner with my mom reading stacks of books from the library.
At the graveside, I carefully sidestep stones and tiptoe to the edge of the tent. I can barely hear the preacher, but I see family, and that's all that matters. The folded flag is presented, the blessing is given, and the people stir. Murmurs of love, hope, and grace mingle in the air. I turn to my parents, and I ask for help in a quest for finding home.
I am determined to find the gravestones of those I never met but who made me what I am. I want to see again the marker that my Uncle Frank, Jim's brother, was determined to show me as we marched through that graveyard one sunny day when I was in college. The marker of the first Four Oaks doctor, a civil war surgeon, and a member of our family. Uncle Frank always encouraged me to be the best at what I did. It was important to him to show me my heritage: to show me my family's legacy and richness of family bonds.
As we returned to the house, I listened to my mom and her sisters talk all at once yet still understanding each other. I listen as the girl cousins relive memories of white front porches, soda shops, and their daddies with giant shiny shoes. I do listen to you. I am at home, and I am building a home for my family to come.
Uncle Jim was known as the "candy man". He passed out candy after church each Sunday. He loved to dance with his sweetheart. He knew the value of hard work, and he loved his family. He loved children, and I am so thankful Jonah was able to meet his great Uncle and Aunt.
At the end of the service, the offering plates were passed around, brimming with chocolate candies. The pastor had told us it wasn't often you would hear to take from the plate instead of put something in it; I picked up that piece of chocolate with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. It felt like home.
We don't mourn as those without hope. Uncle Jim has joined his brothers and sisters, mom and dad, cousins and nieces and nephews. He is home, and I'm pretty sure they are swapping stories around a big wooden table laden with pound cake and rum cake.
Don't take for granted your home.
Listen to the stories, even if this is the 5th time you have heard it.
Write down the memories, even if you think you will never forget it.
Enjoy the candy of life.