(Editor’s note: Ellen and I married in August of 1965 whereupon we moved to Minnesota where I began seminary classes in early September. Ellen never “looked back” and from the first day of seminary to the present day, we have been involved in ministry and have seldom gotten to go “home” to see family. Ellen never complained about not getting to visit home often and the article today in “You and God” was written by her in 2003 when she paused to reflect about one of those rare visits back to North Wilkesboro, NC, where she grew up. I think you will enjoy sharing in her thoughts.)
“Going back home to North Carolina was different in many ways for me this time. Because I have always lived so far away, it was a ‘big deal’ when I came home and we always had a warm welcome for us. This time there was no one to greet us at the gate but two dogs. My dad’s dog, Misty, and Stash, a rottweiler my nephew had placed there, who gave us a friendly, yapping greeting. Their tails were wagging, but we were a little intimidated by Stash whom we didn’t know. After a debate of who could run the fastest, I was elected to go through the gate and get the key at the back door and go through the house and open the front door. Because Misty is the leader and she recognized me, I passed through their inspection and was allowed to enter the house.
The last time I went home, my dad had a big pot of green beans on and a cake of corn bread baked—good fare for anybody. This time I had to go to the grocery store before I could have breakfast. The food in the refrigerator was old and stale and the dogs had some good meals on the things I threw away when I cleaned out the freezer.
My dad is in a rehab facility recovering from a broken hip and severe bed sores. I was shocked to see his appearance. He used to be 6 ft., 4 in., and he probably weighs about 100 pounds now. He can’t stand and only recently has he been able to sit to eat. He is so weak he can hardly talk or turn himself over. He loves to talk, and in the past, there was never a silent moment when he was around, but this time we could only get a brief reply to our questions. He had the most response when we read a Psalm and prayed with him.
Another ‘difference’ was visiting my Aunt Mary, my dad’s sister, who has recently been placed in an assisted living facility because her only daughter lives in Baltimore. Mary was the perfect homemaker and one I admired greatly when I was a child. She always had a spotless house, a freshly baked cake on the sideboard, and a closet full of clothes because she was a proficient seamstress. We stopped by her room about 11:00 a.m. one morning and she was sitting in her chair fully dressed, hair neatly combed and looking like a queen. Her mind is still good and she was elated the day I took her out for lunch and on a little shopping trip. She still loves clothes and bought three new sweaters the day we were out. She’s 90 and in good health, but there’s no one to stay with her, so her new home is one she deplores, but where she will probably end her days.
We stopped by to visit another aunt, Mary, my mom’s only living sibling. She’s 85 and still lives by herself, and her son and grandson live nearby. By mid-morning, she already had all her laundry done for the week and her house cleaned. She was watching the news intently because she has another grandson who lives in San Diego and the fires were near his house. She had called him a couple of times that morning to see if everything was OK. She plans to go to visit him in a few weeks and stay a month or so. She usually bakes us a pie if she knows we’re coming home, but this time she didn’t know, so we missed fresh coconut pie.
More than ever, I look forward to the day when we’ll live in a ‘land where we’ll never grow old.’ I look forward to when these bodies that are now ‘sown in corruption (shall be) raised in incorruption, and (that which is) sown in dishonor…is raised in glory, and (that which) is sown in weakness…is raised in power, and (that which) is sown a natural body…is raised a spiritual body.’” (I Cor. 15:42-44)
P.S. We gathered to celebrate Ellen’s dad’s life of 87 years on February 1, 2006 thanking God for a man who had been an epistle known and read of most everyone in the Community of Cricket where he had pastored the same church for 50 years and where everyone knew him as a “Man of God”; then just four years later, Aunt Mary, having lived a full life until her homegoing at the age of 96, joined Ellen’s dad, her brother and pastor, their remans in the silent city of the dead in the community of North Wilkesboro, NC., but their soul and spirit in that place of which Ellen longingly sang in her heart, the “land where we’ll never grow old.”
“And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.” (Revelation 14:13)