I remember the day my son came home from a brief overseas deployment with the Air Force. His wife and young sons could barely contain their joy and anticipation. Though I was not with them, I too was counting down the minutes until I knew he had safely arrived home. As we watch the news each day we are witness to many such homecoming reunions as they are played out on Facebook videos. We see soldiers surprising their children and families at ball games, in the classroom, or in the work place. Even when we don’t know the people in a personal way, there’s just something poignant and all-endearing as we witness these reunions.
There was another homecoming on September 17, 2004 when Brad, an American Marine, came home from the war. I don’t know Brad. I’ve never met him and wouldn’t recognize him if he were standing beside me. Brad had an amazing group of friends and family who were so overjoyed about his homecoming that they posted dozens of eye-catching red, white, and blue signs along the highway from the I-75 Richwood, Kentucky exit, miles out into the country to his home. The day I saw those signs, curiosity got the best of me and I followed them. A waiting crowd of family and friends had gathered to give him a proper and grand welcome home. Tears streaked down my face as I choked back the emotion that had urged me forward to see this place. According to the signs, Brad was a true red, white, and blue hero- he served his country well, and his home coming had been a joyful reunion day.
As I remember the joy and emotion of the day I saw those signs, and relive the anticipation I felt as I anticipated my sons’ homecoming reunion, I pause to reflect on another type of homecoming.
Twenty-three years ago, September 22, 1995, my mother experienced one of those homecoming reunions. She was welcomed home. It was not the type of homecoming we associate with joy from our particular viewpoint, but I’m quite sure her perspective was different. She was a loyal, honorable citizen in her duties to her family and friends, and had served her 68 years well. As she lay dying in the Owensboro Davis County Hospital, pain was relentless on her broken body after being struck by an oncoming car. She looked one last time at the face of a citizen of this world; a nurse, and said, “I’m in a lot of pain, but it’s okay – I’m going home tonight.” Her pastor said a prayer, sealed it with an “amen”, and her spirit left. Her citizenship was instantly transferred from this world to her heavenly home. What a glad reunion there must have been when she bid her temporary tour of duty here on earth farewell, and made her journey to her eternal Home in heaven.
Landmarks on the Journey Home
One afternoon as I drove home from work, I was feeling such exhaustion that I could barely endure the thought of the miles that still stretched before. “Home” almost seemed elusive. The 22 mile commute was something I had been doing for more than a year. Usually it was enjoyable, but today, I just wanted to be home. You probably know what I’m talking about I needed something to motivate me and propel me forward. That’s when I began to notice the landmarks along the way.
There was the man sitting on his painted horse, just as he does every afternoon at this hour. (I never have figured out why he does this unless it is to watch the sunset, or train his horse to stand quietly or perhaps to bring attention to his Horse Riding School)
Now I am passing the mighty Oak Tree that finally succumbed to the constant battering winds and has fallen into the pond where now the ducks swim in and out of the branches. Oh and there on the left is the Cross Brand Cowboy Church sign. I’m getting close to home and feeling invigorated with renewed energy. I’m almost there.
This reverie reminded me of a day in August, 2005 when I was taking my three-year-old grandson, Connor, home from a visit. He had spent three days with his Papaw and me, and now we had begun the 2 ½ hour journey.
As we began to get closer to his home, he began to fidget with restlessness. “I’m ready to see my Mommy,” he said. “Nonna, May I use your phone and call her?”
Mommy, how much further?
Listening to his conversation with his mom, I detected that his mom was asking for landmarks. He’d say, “Nonna, what can we see now?” I’d answer, “Burger King.” He would relay this to his mom. She apparently was telling him what to look for next. As we called off one then another, and another, he became more and more excited.
“Nonna, how much further?”
“Tell your mommy we just passed the Wal-Mart store.”
“Nonna, Nonna, it’s just two minutes till I see my mommy!”
By this time I wasn’t needed in the conversation. It was all about what he and his mom were discussing. I simply was along for the ride.
“Mommy, we just turned on our street!”
“Mommy, we’re at the top of the hill!”
“Mommy, are you watching for me? Hurry, we’re coming down the hill!”
I glanced into the rear view mirror and saw Connor practically dancing in his infant seat.
“Mommy, I see you! I see you! I see you!”
There she stood beside the driveway with her phone pressed to her ear. She was still talking to him as she opened the van door and embraced him. Her son had come home!
As I reflect upon this beautiful reunion of my daughter with her son, I recall the words of composer, Dick Baker. He spoke of a longing to just be near Jesus and to feel His presence. I often feel that same longing. I want to know Him more fully and enjoy the fullness of joy that comes when I walk in His presence.
I’m sure there will be many landmarks and milestones along the way toward that reunion day when I see Christ face to face. Meanwhile, these beautiful reunions I have witnessed will remind me that at the end of the journey, God Himself will welcome me Home.
What is one of the sweetest reunions you have witnessed? Was it with a child and parent? A soldier coming home? I’d love to hear your story.
COMING FRIDAY: “TEN WAYS TO ENJOY LITTLE SABLE POINT LIGHTHOUSE”