Monday, October 6, 2008

Homesick


I'm almost hesitant to post this as I fear that my words will be misunderstood, but I'm going to say it anyhow.

A dear friend of mine has been responsible for the care of an elderly relative, and all last week, sat by her deathbed until at last this weekend she slipped away. Walking with her through this time has taken me back two and a half years, to a time when I myself sat beside my grandfather's bed as he lay dying. That experience was one I could never put into words, and I'm sure anyone who has been there knows just what I mean.

However, I hadn't thought too much about one of the feelings that marked that time in my life until those same feelings came surging to the forefront of my mind again with this recent death.

When my grandfather died, I felt many things. Shock, even though his death was expected, because somewhere in the deep recesses of my mind, I realized that I subconsciously believed he would live forever. (Of course, he will... but that's not how I meant it.) Grief, knowing that never again would I see him, talk to him, laugh with him, share old memories with him, or make new memories. Relief, because he had entered the last stage of Alzheimer's and for him to continue to live in that state would have been so hard on everyone, himself included.

But above all those other feelings rose the feeling of jealousy. I knew where he was going, and I longed to go with him.

This is where I fear that my words may be misinterpreted. I am not suicidal. Not depressed. When I say I long to go, I am not saying, "Oh, life is so miserable, I just want to die." I don't want to escape anything in this life, I'm not looking for an out.

I've been in that place, I will confess. For years, I suffered from depression and anxiety, and I did long for death as a means of escape. I don't think I could ever have been called suicidal, because I knew that no matter how much I wanted to, I could never bring myself to actually harm myself in any way, but there is no question that if I could have, I would have. Those were dark times, and I say this only to explain how very different that kind of "I want to die" statement is from what I'm saying now.

I'm very happy. Life is good, and I enjoy living to the fullest. In fact, I haven't even thought about these feelings I had at my grandfather's death for quite some time. Until this weekend.

When my friend and I were talking, shortly after the death, one thing she said was, "She WANTED to go..." (She was very elderly, and suffering.) And instantly those feelings of jealousy came surging up within me from a place so deep I'd forgotten its existence. "I want to go!" I thought. I want to go not because I'm miserable, not because I'm suffering, not because I no longer want to live -- I want to go because I know that what I'd be going to is so much better than where I am now.

And then it occurred to me that I'm in a very similar situation that I think is much more easily understood by others. I'm currently living in a town I don't want to live in. And the situation is so much the same. I'm actually quite happy here. I have a beautiful house in a lovely neighborhood. I love my church and really feel as if I belong there. My Bible Study group is full of wonderful ladies that I've bonded with. I truly enjoy my job, and the children and families I get to work with. I have good relationships with my coworkers and that makes teamwork so much easier when it comes to meeting the children's needs. I've developed friendships and social circles here that I will miss if/when I move away. The fact is, I've put down some roots here, and I really like it here quite a lot. If my house doesn't sell, and I end up staying awhile, it's not that big of a deal -- I do want to move, but I'm also happy where I'm at.

So if life here is so great, why do you want to move? I'm sure you're asking...

The answer is simple. Because I'm homesick. The one thing that I don't have in this town is family. In a town three hours away, I have a grandmother. I have a niece and a nephew that I love beyond words. I have parents, siblings, and aunts, uncles, and cousins galore. And I feel stranded up here away from them all. And that is the one and only reason I want to move. I'm homesick.

So then is it really difficult to understand my other yearnings, my jealousy of those who go on to the life ahead of us while I'm left here on earth for I have no idea how many more years? It's not that things are bad here in life. It's simply that I'm homesick. I know that this world is not my home, my heart lives in heaven, and that is why I long to go there.

Yet when I say such things, people gasp in horror or in shock, or they chide me for saying such awful things, or they think I'm depressed. Why is that? Why is it so easy for people to understand that I am very happy here in my current town and yet I want to go "home" to the other town because my family is there and it's where I belong, and so difficult to understand that I am very happy here in my current life on earth and yet I want to go "home" to my other life where I really belong?

Does anyone understand? Feel the same way? I'm really not depressed. I'm probably happier and more content than I've ever been at any other point previously in my life. Is it wrong to yearn for the better life I know is waiting, as long as I also am willing to wait patiently, though longingly, for the time God has chosen for me to enter it?

Thoughts?

5 comments:

Heidi said...

This is a very interesting post, especially for me, a non-believer. So I can't share those feelings of an afterlife, but I DO relate to a few things you wrote about. I can understand how *you* feel that way, since I know how important your faith is to you. I CAN relate to how you feel about living far from your family and how you can be happy in one place while being homesick for another. I've felt that way at times in my life.

Fortunately, I've never actually lived away from my family for any really long-term situation, but I know I felt like I had a second "home" in the little town in Germany where I spent about 9 months of my life and where I made real and lasting friendships and connections that continue to this day. There are times I'm so homesick for my "other" home that I could sit down and cry, and yet the reality for me is that that place doesn't even really exist anymore since all the people I love no longer live there or have passed on. Yet, I can understand loving where you are now, but missing somewhere else.

PS. I still need to reply in full to your email. I had no idea what you were dealing with and am glad you are moving past that!

Maria said...

I have no profound words of my own, but just wanted to remind you that even Paul struggled with the same feeling of homesickness. See Phil 1:20-26
I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me.
(Emphasis mine)

Maria said...

Am I right in thinking it's your birthday today? If not, I'm very sorry for misremembering. If so, HAPPY BIRTHDAY! :-)

'American Dreamer' said...

Such a poignant post.
I believe we all have these subconscious thoughts that quietly eat at us until one day we have to take the time to see what it is that's bothering us.
It's interesting that you're the type person that can actually understand your own self.
With my ADD, I can hardly keep two thoughts together long enough to work out a solution.
It's just the Grace of God that we can continue in as good a life as we do.
Nostalgia isn't always a fun thing, is it?
You have a relatively good life, good friends, family that can be reached at a whim, your own home, vehicle, etc.
Besides, you get to live in the mountains, too cool!

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