Mary sat comfortably in a large reclining chair, her hands folded on the knitted blue blanket that rested on her lap. Her eyes, the color of the sky heavy with clouds, gazed ahead as if she was re-living a moment of her past while she was talking to me. A bustling lady she must have been because she loved her garden. And she told me she had many beautiful flowers planted in her own backyard. And she misses that – her home.
Being in a rest home, a place for the elderly who needs attention and care, was not easy or enjoyable for her. She said that she had to come here because she lost the ability to walk. She is now used to it. But I bet that if she could choose, she would rather live at home, with her colorful garden and the ones she loves.
Singing at the rest homes is a ministry I am involved in while here. When I was a child, I used to be scared of old people. But now that I’m a grown-up, I realized that each elderly is more than a wrinkling and frail body. They are like books, maybe with dog-eared pages and yellow stains; but they are full of adventures, cool stories, wisdom and life lessons.
Today we, SPBC students, spent some time at one of the rest homes. After the singing, we were mingling with the elders and talking with them. That was where I met Mary, and learned of her story. She was not the only one who was homesick though. Sometimes I saw a few people wiped away tears from their eyes when they listened to us – not because we were good singers (oh, especially me who sing out of tune all the time) but because the words meant something to them.
I’ve been pondering about homesickness recently actually. Before the school was over, many people asked me if I had felt homesick, or if I was ready for the blow of homesickness during break. If I were to be honest, I will never be ready for that. Though I had lived in Chiang-Mai for five years before, homesickness was always unexpected and difficult. It isn’t something you can avoid or brush away. It’s something one needs to accept, and linger on until the moment passes because it reminds you of your humanness, and of your true home.
I’m now reading a book called “Longing for Home” by Lynn Anderson. The writer ponders about his own restlessness and wandering while searching for his roots by tracing his family history back to his European ancestors who were first settlers in Canada. In one of the chapters, he wrote, “Home is not so much being present somewhere as it is a presence that can go with us everywhere.”
Yes, most of us have homes where we belong to – a place where we get to tend our garden, cook (or for some of us “burn”) meals for our families, snuggle together in a couch on rainy days, cry and pray over difficult decisions and simply make memories. But the longing in our hearts for the true home will never be quenched because eternity with God is where we ALL belong. Only then will we never feel homesick again.
Before we left the rest home, we sang this song “When we all get to heaven” together. I was full of emotions and excitement as I sang and shouted the words with my fellow students and the “frail and wrinkled” people. Mary said that when I get to 87 years old, I will understand what it feels like to want to go home. I guess I may not have to wait that long. I ache for home now, and always will – home with my family, and home with my God. But in my homesickness, He walks with me. He takes me by the hand and leads me home.