I’ve been away traveling these last two weeks. This time not to foreign lands or to mouse-guarded castles, but to a place that will always hold a special piece of my heart.
I went home. For the first time in two years (thank you, COVID). And though I have many homes now because I have lived in many places, this time I went to where I grew up, where I spent most of my first two decades of life.
It is a strange thing to be back for me, for many reasons. Among them that not only are all of my grandparents and many aunts and uncles already in heaven. But so are all three of my parents. And my late husband and I were together for so many years that we had been everywhere I can think of in that town.
Everywhere held a memory. Everywhere a sensation of sadness.
We did all the “St. Louis” stuff that every child raised there does when we come back. We saw family member upon family member, ensuring that my children made connections to people who love them, though they may have a hard time remembering all the names. But even as I brought my sons and daughters to favorite museums and restaurants, laughing and smiling with them as they found joy at so many things – my heart was aching.
Now I’m headed back again tomorrow. This time to say goodbye to my fifth family member to die in these last ten months at her funeral. A woman who cared for me as a second mother, even helping me to get ready for my wedding when my own mom was tied up taking pictures. While there, I will get to put my arms around more family that I have not seen in quite some time. People who remain forever in my heart, no matter how long it has been.
And as I sit here on my back porch, watching my boys play on their swingset, I know that my rather extensive family in heaven watches over and guards us in the same way. Forever in our hearts. No matter how long it has been.
It is a long road back to the ache receding, but I know that one day the love and the joy we all felt together will win.