It was a year ago today. Perhaps even a year ago this very moment, as I type these letters, that the phone rang. We were sitting on the couch, eating ice cream, just HH and I. Kids in the bed, life peaceful, lots on our minds, lots to think about, but it was the happiest day I’d had in a really long time.

My Mom came over to stay with the kids and we drove through the dark, long half an hour, full of minutes streaming on, second after second until at last I was in that emergency room — so sterile an environment with a doctor encouraging me talk to him, we’re putting him on ice. Intravenous cold therapy. Cardiac arrest and stroke. Dizzying words in a dizzying scene.

Maybe he can hear you and maybe he can’t.

It was all a year ago, today.

The week that followed was the longest, the hardest, I can count among my days. Hand sanitizer and in and out of the Cardiac ICU to nurse a four-month-old so full of life and stand beside the bed of my dying Dad.

On the Seventh Day, he rested.

With Dad

And here a year has come, has gone, with lows and highs and milestones and some days just wondering in between.

My brother and sister and I exchange text messages and memories. How he hated to wear socks. The times he got himself in a bit of trouble with his words. Miller Lite with a lime. Beach music and grilled chicken wings.

And a whole full year — it just goes, life, like the good water, the water that flows, 365 days I’ve lived without one of the three who had a tangible hand in my beginning.

It has been hard. Finding closure, about his life. And in particular this time — so many meetings, so much paperwork. Selling the boat he promised to buy when we moved back from South Africa while U2 played over the radio – Sometimes You Can’t Make it On Your Own – I got in my car and wept.

Questions that won’t be answered this side of heaven pile high in far corners of my mind. No sense in writing them down — you can’t take it with you, can you?

But there is this truth I’ve known through all of this. There is this God, available and near to the brokenhearted. Who won’t extinguish the flame of a dimly burning wick.

In two days time, we’ll begin a journey back to South Africa. Back to the Beloved Country where HH first asked and I first said yes. The country where the Bear learned to walk and the Tank cried his first cry and learned to breathe.

I am joyful — so joyful to be going.

We’ll introduce the Belle to a Goo-Goo and Gammy who’ve only ever seen her on Skype. Two aunts and one uncle who’ve enjoyed the photographs but not yet the presence. And we’ll meet one precious little niece for the first time.

IMG_1346

There’s a kind of homesickness I have for this place — and it’s funny to explain, but true.

It may seem strange to be homesick for the place you weren’t born, lived twenty years before setting foot on. But the soil’s been on my shoes and in my heart and a children’s book called Grandfather’s Journey actually put it perfectly:

The minute I am in one place, I am homesick for the other.

Three countries on earth I have the privilege of longing for and loving dearly. I find joy where I am, but I also look forward to going again, with a deep, unexpected longing.

And here is an amazing thing.

I found joy on my kitchen floor not too long ago. I can say for sure: Even after loss, there can still be so much laughter. Even after change, there is still space for so much hope and joy.

These 365 days have been unexpectedly full. Grace to grace and strength to strength, joy to joy. Hard times, sometimes yes, but still — I am learning to see the gifts, and thereby learning to better see the Giver.

Somewhat like the homesickness you might feel if you live in a place for a while and fall in love with it, there is another homesickness, a different one.

It’s where you find yourself when someone you have loved so deeply is gone and you are left — you know you can’t renew your passport and buy your plane ticket and make your way to the place where you are together again.

It’s a homesickness not of this world.

Such powerful words, whispered gently in the movie The Gladiator — to a soldier who has lost his wife and son, and must carry on to live the rest of his days: You’ll see them again, but not yet.

Not yet, indeed.

Until I’m called home to the One who dreamed me into being, I’ll be here — and after last year’s loss, I am a little more homesick to be there.

Because this is what I’ve heard about it:

And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” {Rev. 21:3-4}

The best. The best is yet to come.

Our lives can change so quickly, friends. It is profoundly, unbelievably true. I’ve stayed still this year. Cried hard this year. Breathed deeply this year. Made painstaking efforts to say yes to Will you play with me? more often than I say no — though I fail, sometimes, I fail. Pressing on toward that beautiful call I was created to hear and respond to. I’ve aimed to be intentional, loving the people who mean the most to me, extending with grace and gentleness to the world around me.

Could we all be flowers unfolding, in a way? Petal after petal, peeling back so gently, so slowly. We extend and stretch out ourselves toward the world around us, if we’re willing. Isn’t it beautiful when a flower opens up? At the very center, they’re pointed up toward the sun.

Where is your life pointing? Where are your arms stretching? Don’t put the day after tomorrow among the things you count on. Live knowing this moment is important, because you don’t know how many more you have.

And if you’re homesick, let that homesickness remind you how fragile and fleeting our days truly are. How quickly things change.

Today could be the day everything changes — like me, last year — a day you might feel homesick for later on.

Love deep and live well, dear ones. This is the time that you have. Make it count.

xCC

 

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