This past week I was reminded of this in several ways. One was through an offer that someone made to buy our two-tenths of an acre at Lake Junaluska. We just got finished paying for that tiny parcel. There are only rocks and trees and a few stray golf balls, but it is also a vision, a hope. It is a tangible place for our family to call home – a family that has lived in someone else’s house/parsonage forever. Will we sell it? Only if we decide that I can’t stand living in retirement around a bunch of “My-church-was-bigger-than-yours-preachers,” or it finally sinks in that we can’t afford what we want to build.
However, it is our land for the time being and there is great comfort in having a home even if it is still invisible. But, the other “homely” thought came this week through remembering an October day spent with my Dad. We did our usual fall circuit. We cleaned off my mother’s grave, sprayed a weed and grass-killer to finish things off before the first-frost, and purchased a new season’s array of her favorite flowers. We traveled out to Barr’s Chapel, a closed United Methodist Church near Modoc, South Carolina. My great-great grandparents are buried there and Daddy, though only semi-ambulatory as a double amputee, was one of its trustees through the Edgefield UMC. Then we traveled a few short miles down a winding familiar road to Red Hill. This is the road that I remember traveling while sitting in Daddy’s lap angled between him and the steering wheel pretending to drive. We visited the Red Hill church where we ate on the grounds every year and reverently paid homage at Papa Mac and Ma Mac’s grave, plus the tombs of more great-grandparents, cousins and the like.
We had our usual visit, replaced flowers, saw the old homeplace of Daddy’s mother, reminisced about Grandfather Thomas’ old store and turned around. However, there is a part of me that never leaves because this trek reminds me of another home. Part of this other home is in my memory and part of it is in my future. It sneaks into my present more every day as I get older; ponder mortality, and the upcoming All Saint’s Day. It is a home called heaven by some, but in my mind’s eye it is Paradise – maybe more so because we live in a parsonage, however beautiful, but not ours. Nonetheless, heaven looks pretty inviting when my memory is overwhelmed by the carefree days of yesteryear where I can see my family alive and well with no worries to speak of. I am reminded that my longing for a place to call home on earth is far surpassed by the one waiting in heaven. There I will see the cloudy mist between the saints evaporated. Church Militant and Church Triumphant will be together again. There’ll be a reunion so fulfilling that I cry now to know it. As much as having a home here seems so attractive, there is a better one there.