Tuesday, March 1, 2016

When It's Time to Come Home

I grew up near one of the world's largest cities, but my home, itself, was on an island. Large, but an island. While that island did boast actual sand on some of its beaches, what covered the remainder of the territory resembled something closer to powder than dirt.

One of my earliest memories of home was set during those summery twilight hours, that dreamy time of day when mothers popped their heads out the kitchen door to call their children home for bedtime. That was in the long-gone era when it was children who had playmates, and it was considered safe for them to play outside. I had been sitting on the ground, out in our backyard, with some friends and while we talked, I absentmindedly was picking up handfuls of that delightful, powdery texture and letting them pour through my fingers onto my knees.

Suddenly realizing, one of my friends gasped. "What are you doing? You're getting dirty!" This, from a four year old. Her mother had trained her well.

"So? I'm having a bath when I get called in." I liked the sense of the powdery plumes of dust pouring over my skin—just as much as I enjoyed the squeaky-clean coziness of cuddling up in my own bed at night. There was no conflict in those two states; they were made to exist sequentially. At least, that was the routine in our household. I was so nonchalantly confident of my parents' perspective.

As it turned out, I was right: I had the bath, but not a bit of grief over my besmudged appearance.

It wasn't until years later—more like decades—when the thought struck me how odd it was that one child was so certain of the dire consequences of the very action which was inconsequential in another household. After all, that's what baths were for, wasn't it?

Mulling that incident over in my mind in these far-removed, adulty years, I've come to see a number of other memories attached to that bedtime ritual, that twilight time when our parents came outside to call our names, to tell us it was time to come home.

More than anything, I've realized that each of us had different ideas of what our parents' expectations of us were. And that each parent represented widely divergent expectations.

Mostly, I realized the peace a child feels when he or she not only knows those expectations, but does them. Whether others judged our actions as right or wrong didn't matter. It's all in how we responded to our own parents' wishes—and lined up with them.

When all is in its rightful place, the call to come home can be a cozy, welcoming moment.

Though that memory lingers from my childhood, I realize, too, that adults face a time when they are called home. While some holler "Coming!" in answer to their call—yet keep right in the game they are playing—and some vainly attempt to renegotiate the appointed time, there are some who slip away so quickly, so quietly, that we miss that quick "See ya" before they headed home.

Yesterday afternoon—in broad daylight and in a hospital, even—that's exactly what our friend did. With hardly a warning—definitely not the throes of the sometimes-expected last struggles of life's finale—the man who had fought cancer for fourteen long months checked out so quickly, even the ones sitting at his bedside hardly realized it until it was over. When it's time to come home, some still can make that journey like children confident of their parents' wishes.

Above: "Train in the Snow," 1875 oil on canvas by French Impressionist Claude Monet; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.


  1. What a heartbreakingly beautiful metaphor you have created. I am so sorry for your loss and wish you peace in the coming days.

    1. I too am very sorry for your loss and wish you the strength in healing as well as defeating the grief one always finds themselves in. Time does heal all wounds especially when you have someone that is a part of your life such as Jacqi and Chris. I too experienced the loss of someone I love and always will. The train came too soon as far as Im concerned but thats just me being selfish. Ourloved ones just finished their lessons a little sooner than we did therefore allowing them to go home sooner than us.Jacki has a beautiful way of describing things than I. It could not have been put more beautifully or angelically than that.I feel as if we are all being looked down upon by our loved ones and it is a much better feeling than I had before my eyes glanced upon those words that were heaven sent and fashioned in such a way that allowed each of us the enlightenment we needed to help in the healing process. You know the one I lost,temporarily mind you always did beat me to the door everytime,I should have known shed beat me home as well, LOL!

    2. Thank you so much, Jennifer. Peace makes all the difference!

    3. Gerry, thanks so much, cuz! And yes, I know...

  2. I am so sorry for your loss, good friends are hard to find. Sometimes death comes swiftly when least expected and for some it drags on for days and weeks. How nice that you could be there, I am certain your presence was a comfort:)

    1. Yes, good friends are priceless. Wish we could have done more, but sometimes, there is nothing more valuable that we can give than just being there for them.

  3. Once again - your writing is superlative.

    I have been bedside in a couple deaths. One was my mother's father - and as I stood there holding my grandmother's hand (at age 10-ish) he breathed his last. I can still remember her reaching down to cover his feet with the blanket a few moments afterwards (he was a very tall man) and saying to my mom, "Goodness, his feet are cold already," all the while never once letting go of my hand.

    It's never easy to see someone you treasure "go home." One only has to hope that they lived life to the fullest and enjoyed it.

    1. Thank you, Iggy. Times like these are never easy, never predictable. It's the people who go with us through these difficult times who can make all the difference.


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