“A home is a place
where a set of different destinies begin to articulate and define themselves.
It is the cradle of one’s future”
– John O’Donohue in Eternal Echoes: Celtic Reflections on Our Yearning to Belong
This past weekend, I was reflecting on / doing some life review about surviving a death-defying accident on I-985 almost 2 years ago in June, 2010… think life-flight to the Level 1 trauma center, trauma bay, emergent OR visit… at least that’s what I was thinking as everything was happening. Car moving into my lane. Narrow shoulder. Lost traction. Seconds, a long sideways path in the grassy median, and two oncoming lanes of highway traffic later, I found myself stopped at the top of the embankment, still facing the direction I’d been traveling. I was fine. My car was fine. But those seconds were the impetus for a conversation with my friend about what we were looking for in life.
A partial summary of our conversation was this: I have been spoiled by a wealth of opportunities and my friend has been spoiled by a wealth of stability. This means that faced with the opportunity to go to new places, I know this isn’t a once-in-a-lifetime thing. This means that faced with the possibility of moving away from my community, I am sad and anxious because my community is so transitory and may not be here, let alone the same, when I get back. My friend can go away for years and still have the same community upon returning, so not going to a new place feels like getting old, wanting to be comfortable, not wanting more change.
I was trying to explain that I was searching for “home,” and that home didn’t have to be a place but could be a person, a community. I had a home, a place where my future was born and a place where that future could articulate and define itself as different from the other futures and destinies gathered there. Then, I lost the home… or maybe it is that I left it, bit by bit. I left it to go on my adventure… and at first I went back home for shorter stays and longer stays… until one day, neither the articulation or the definition of my future fit into the cradle anymore. It became this unwieldy thing, taking on a life of its own and morphing into shapes unexpected.
Perhaps this is a problem with giving birth: the things and beings we birth are never fully in our control, perhaps never really in our control at all. A local pastor, preaching on Luke 9, once spoke of the unknown adventure of discipleship to which we are called. A lot of what happens on that adventure is unexpected and out of our control, and yet the adventure heads us toward (and perhaps we also await the adventum that is coming toward us) that to which we are called and that for which we long. The pastor used a C.S. Lewis quote that basically says that the reason why we are left unsatisfied with the things we find when we go searching is because we are searching and longing for something that is bigger than this world.
So, maybe I, like so many others on a spiritual journey, so many who come through the hospital, keep searching for something that is bigger than this world on an adventure toward a future that was birthed and continues to morph and take its own shape; in the meantime, we entwine our futures with others along the way in a poor attempt to approximate “home,” and find our “home” being shaken and shattered when our adventures take an unexpected turn. I wonder whether this isn’t what personal loss does to us… unhinges us and makes us lose our “home” that was with that person, disrupts our sense of our own future, of our adventure, signals to us that things will never be the same again, and perhaps reminds us that the things for which we long will ultimately never be fully or forever be satisfied in this life.
And perhaps in the process of post-death bereavement, we learn to build our homes again, strengthen the homes that are with other loved ones in our lives, and slowly clear out the home that is no longer inhabited, through the help and grace of God, with an eye toward our eternal home, ever with an eye to something eternal and holy and beautiful.