Homecoming

I live in the country, where I hear a rooster crowing every new morning, where mists rise like swirling specters from glassy-surfaced ponds reflecting the pinkening sky. Where geese fly over my house so low sometimes that I hear the rustling of their wings as they call to one another in that rusty honk honk honk.

I think together together together. Home home home.

On Sundays I drive past fields, dilapidated tobacco barns, fences, pastures, goats, ponies, donkeys, horses, chickens, and peacocks that like to stroll along the roadside as if they own this pastoral kingdom. Around the bend are mules, cows, woods. Eventually I reach a clearing. The church, nestled between the fellowship hall and the graveyard. Gathering places. The place of worship connects the place of eating and celebrating life with the place of the dead, remembered and still very much loved.

This Sunday, the fellowship hall was crammed with tables laden with casseroles, salad, friend chicken, ham, deviled eggs, cakes, pies. This Sunday, family, friends, and former church members returned to celebrate their ties to the church. This Sunday, I rejoined the choir for the first time in many weeks, singing a song of gratitude to God.

This Sunday, my husband — the pastor — returned to church after four heart bypasses, four stents, two hospitalizations for nineteen days, two heart attacks, one cardiac arrest and one resuscitation. Thinner, slower, easily tired but gaining strength with each passing day, he came for Homecoming. To honor the life and legacy of the church. To celebrate his life being given back to him. To his ministry. To thank our oldest son, who filled the pulpit and even conducted a funeral in his father’s absence.

And to tell the church that this boy, who was seven when we came to serve here, who was baptized here, who grew up, left home, and returned to go to seminary in his father’s footsteps, has just been called as pastor of another church on the other side of the county. That this boy, now a man, is simultaneously getting married and becoming the father of three-year-old girl. She looks up at him with adoration, a big bow in her hair, so excited that they’ll all be able to live together. Their first home will be a parsonage.

Together together together. Home home home.

As his father returns, our son leaves to build his own life and legacy. To establish his own home. I think, as people cry and smile and hug, that for every homecoming is a homegoing.

Home. It is tied to place, yes, often in the context of where one grew up; but home is ultimately about love, about belonging. I heard an educator speak about his childhood. He and his brother were abandoned by their parents, spent their lives moving from one foster home to another. At seventeen, just as he was about to exit the system, his last foster parents adopted him. He went to college and one day, on coming home, realized that “success isn’t about leaving home, getting a good job, making a lot of money.” He understood, as his adoptive mother opened the door and threw her arms around him, that success is about living and loving well. It is about caring and helping and trusting and sacrificing. It is about family, about belonging. About carving out home.

I look at my son, standing tall and strong beside his worn, weeping father at the altar in the sanctuary, as an invisible torch is passed. The benediction. It pierces me, but not like an ending. It feels like a beginning.

Home. It doesn’t begin with physical place. It’s not external. It begins with finding home within yourself, with who you are, with the love you have to give as well as that you receive. It is about believing. Then it becomes the story of belonging, of rising to meet life each new day.

Together together together.

—Godspeed on your journey home, son.

On his father’s shoulders

8 thoughts on “Homecoming

  1. Such a beautiful post full of hope and love and home. When you go through something as difficult as you and your husband, priorities change and we can see more clearly the true blessings of life. God bless your son in his new adventure.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I know this has been an emotional, trying season for you. You’ve handled everything gracefully and have shown others that your faith is strong, which is something I already knew. 😊Beautifully written.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Fran, your beautifully written and touching slice is filling my heart with gladness: for you who suffered through the anguish, your husband who through the power of medicine and the grace of God was given a miraculous return to his family and parish, and your son who is off to a new life and calling. There is so much goodness within this one post. My blessings continue to be bestowed on you and your family.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I would absolutely love to read a book that you write, Fran. I hope someday you do write one. Because you are one of the most gifted writers and beautiful people. I love reading about your family. I wish your son all the best in this exciting new chapter and I hope your husband feels stronger every day. I am sure this has been an unbelievably hard time. I hope good days are ahead for all of you.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. So much beauty in this post. “Home. It doesn’t begin with physical place. It’s not external. It begins with finding home within yourself, with who you are, with the love you have to give as well as that you receive.” Such an important message for all of us. Thank you for sharing your heart with us today, Fran.

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  6. I can only hope that this post finds its way to your church archives, to mark this moment for all. We do carry home within us, like an ember saved from one hearth to bring warmth to another. Best wishes to your son on his new path, and continued prayers for healing for your husband.

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