The father, of one of my dearest friends Elaine Hanson, died in early June. He was a quiet, unassuming man. He loved his family and his God. When I was with my Elaine this summer, she told me of a letter she had found some time ago. The letter had been written by her father to his parents while he was serving in World War II. The letter was dated Sept. 8 and sent from Japan. He said simply:
Don’t write any more. I’m on my way home.
What makes this letter so special is that on the day that Elaine’s dad died, she read it back to him. “Don’t write any more. I’m on my way home.” What a send-off she gave him….I’m on my way home. She knew…he knew… “home” was truly just around the corner.
This weekend, my husband and I will take part of Wartburg’s Homecoming. Those alums who love Wartburg will be anxiously looking forward to coming “home.” Next weekend we will be attending Homecoming at our alma mater, Waldorf University. We will be “coming home” there as well.
The concept of “coming home,” is even in baseball! The players race, struggle, and go through great strife to “get home!” So, why the draw for home? The definition of home includes…being a part of a family. Galen, Elaine’s dad, was leaving his earthly family to join his heavenly family. The link between the two worlds is powerfully bound in the word, “family.”
While teaching graduate students, I did an exercise where I asked them to write what they would do if they knew they had 10 years to live. They put things like; take a vacation, pay the bills, and change careers for more meaning. Then I asked what they would do if they had 3 years to live. They put things like, spend time doing things that were more meaningful, getting their things in order, travel the world. Then I asked what they would do if they had 24 hours to live. Every single student said they would be with their family.
“Family” and “Home” should be synonymous. It matters not if “family” to you is connected with genetics or blood. What matters is that you belong. Belonging is innate with being “home.”
The question is, where do you find home? In whom do you find home? On earth, there are many places, many hearts that one may feel drawn to in order to be “at home.” How many times have you come into your house and said, “I’m home!”? I have friends with whom I can say when we get together, “I’m home.” When I stand in front of all our students in the morning before the Pledge of Allegiance I feel like I can say, “I’m home.” When I greet my 90 year old mom with a kiss, I know “I’m home.” What makes you feel “you’re home?” Who makes you feel “you’re home?”
Yesterday was “Dad’s Day” in Mrs. Bienemann’s preschool class. I got teary-eyed when I told the dads that the relationship with their child was like none other. I told them I had been a daddy’s girl and I missed him every day of my life. I walked out of that classroom “homesick” for my dad. But, just as Galen was ushered “home” by his daughter reading his letter from the war so long ago, we too will be ushered “home” to a place where we will always belong…to the family of God who is be our home.
When the time comes, there is only “one home” where we need not write to any more, pray for any more, hope for any more. When we die, we will find the Homecoming of Homecomings.