"Oh, there's no place like home for the holidays. . . "
That's always been one of my favorite songs. I guess it's a Christmas song, but for me it's one that I happily start singing even before Thanksgiving. I grew up in Tennessee, so I always loved these lines:
I met a man who lived in Tennessee and he was heading for
Pennsylvania and some homemade pumpkin pie;
Pennsylvania's folks are traveling down to Dixie's sunny shore--
From Atlantic to Pacific
Gee, the traffic is terrific!
Even the merciless traffic of holiday travel is bearable if you're heading home, right?
|Graphic courtesy of Tatertots and Jello|
Not the 15th anniversary of my marriage--our next anniversary will be 30 years!--but the anniversary of one of the most important days of my life.
15 years ago, on November 23, 1999, two days before Thanksgiving, my mother died.
Even as I type those words I struggle to believe them. I was talking with my sister last night, who said it seems like a dream or another life.
Our mom was 58 years old when she left us. She had scleroderma and died of renal failure. She was in the prime of life when she got sick.
And that was it. "Home" for me was gone.
Of course, I'd been married nearly 15 years when my mom died, so really "home" for me was my own home, the home I was creating for my three children. I think one of the reasons I'm so deeply grateful for this house where we've lived for 10 years is that my kids think of it as home. This is where they've grown up. This is where they know every street, where they know the way to the grocery store and to school and to church, where they notice if an old house is torn down or a new one is built. That matters to me.
This weekend my husband and I attended the funeral of a friend's mother. How poignant it was to see our friend weeping over the loss of his mom right at Thanksgiving.
But the pastor who conducted this service gave me a great gift. His message was one of hope. In very simple, conversational language, he talked about heaven.
To be honest, we don't really know a lot about what heaven will be like. Is it a physical place somewhere in the clouds? Is it a city with walls and gates? Does it stand beside a river? I don't know the answers to those questions.
The pastor spoke of familiar verses such as the gates made of pearl and the streets paved with gold (Revelation 21). Is that language literal or metaphorical? I don't know, but the pastor made a point that went straight to my heart:
Heaven is a place where precious things such as gold and pearls are just common building materials.
I'd never thought of it like that. Because of the presence of the Lord, the radiant beauty of His presence, everything in heaven is good. Things are as they should be.
My mother was a saintly woman. A lifelong follower of Jesus, she nonetheless struggled with feeling any assurance of salvation. She tried very hard to live a good and holy life, and she stressed over her failures. I remember once hearing her say that she hoped she'd been good enough to go to heaven.
But early in 1999, my mom's mother died. My mom was so sick at that point she was unable to attend her own mother's funeral. But my grandmother's passing made a huge difference in my mom's understanding of heaven. Although my mom had never felt any assurance of her own salvation, she knew without question that my grandmother, who was also a lifelong follower of Jesus, was bound for heaven.
After my grandmother died, my mother no longer talked about hoping she'd been good enough to go to heaven. And as the end of her life neared, my mother told us that she was ready to go home. Those were her very words.
So this week, as I consider all the blessings for which I'm so thankful, I can't help but reflect on the fact that we're celebrating an anniversary. My mom has been at home in heaven for 15 years now.
|This is one of my most treasured ornaments. It belonged to my mom; the photo is her as a little girl.|
But as I think about a place so full of the glory of the Lord that even the most precious elements of earthly life dull by comparison, I find myself longing for home.
I think that's as it should be.