How lovely is your dwelling place,
O LORD of hosts!
My soul longs, indeed it faints
for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and my flesh sing for joy
to the living God.
Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may lay her young. —Psalm 84:1-3
I started to drive away but something moved me to pull over to the curb and stop. I sat there in my car looking across the street at the house we had called home for the last seven years. It didn’t feel right to just drive away. After all, we had a relationship with this place, and you don’t just drive away from a relationship without a good goodbye. After a long look at the house, the words finally came. “Thank you, house,” I said. “You kept us warm and dry in the winter and cool in the summer. We had a few trials but much more joy within your walls and you held us together through all of it. You gave us a place to be family. You gave us a place to be home. I know you will do the same for your new owners. Hold them and protect them. I hope your walls will remember our love and laughter. We will remember you with much fondness.” I took a long last look at the pale yellow house on the corner lot then drove away for the last time.
We are moving to live closer to our daughter and son-in-law and grandsons. The new house has a pool which is a huge attraction for our water-loving grandsons. We haven’t even moved our furniture in yet and they’ve already taken a swim there.
It’s exciting to move into a different house. It’s fun to do all the things that make it ours—choosing paint colors, taking out old carpet and putting in new flooring, planning where the furniture will go. But there is also a kind of wistful sadness in leaving the old house behind. It was more than just a house. It was our home.
As I write this on All Saints Day, I am mindful of all the saints I’ve been at home with and all the places I’ve called home over the years. All Saints Day is for me a kind of marker in the calendar, signaling a time of introspection, ingathering and family. Thanksgiving lies just ahead. Then Christmas. These are times to be shared with family, whether the accidental family of your gene pool or your church family or the intentional family of like-minded friends that you’ve gathered around yourself. These are times to remember and to make new memories.
This is also a time—and this day in particular—to be mindful of the “great cloud of witnesses,” those beloved people who have gone before us and whose presence we still carry in our hearts. This is a day and a season to remember the faces that always warmed our hearts and reminded us that we are not alone in this world or the next. This is a day, even, to remember the houses that held us, the places where we were at home. This is also a day and a season to remember that someday we will move on.
Life is movement. Some of us move many times. Some put down roots in a place and stay there most of their lives. But eventually everyone moves on to the great mystery, the great What Comes Next. Eventually every one of us will move to the House with many dwelling places where a place for us has been prepared.
In my work I have been privileged and blessed to be with many as they made that final move. Some were mightily reluctant to go and approached it with anger or fear. Most though, had made peace with the idea and were ready for the move. Some even welcomed it joyfully. When you know you’re going to move, it’s always best to make peace with the idea. It’s even better when you can anticipate your new residence with joy.
I’m just a poor wayfaring stranger
Traveling through this world below
There’s no sickness, no toil or danger
In that bright land to which I go
I’m going there to see my father
And all my loved ones, who’ve gone on
I’m just going over Jordan
I’m just going over home