Homesickness (by Marilyn)

Marsha and I are happy to announce that we’ve resolved our email issue and that if you wish to reply to a post you are free to do so with the knowledge we’ll get it.


This summer is the first time our ten-year-old granddaughters experienced three weeks away from their parents. When they first told me about this upcoming adventure they were exuberant. They each had received e-mails from their respective “big sister,” someone who had been at the camp before and would be a new friend once they arrived. They knew they would be placed in different cabins, as they have always been in different classes in school, so that was no big deal. They were excited about the variety of activities they could choose to do each week, and with three weeks probably would get to do everything they hoped before the end of camp.

On Saturday I was ecstatic when I discovered a letter from each granddaughter:

From Caroline: “Hi! Bam Bam and Papa! Camp is going okay! I am very, very homesick…” — and at the end of her note: “Also, today is day 4 out of 21!…”

From Fiona: “Day 4. Dear Bam Bam and Papa. Hi! Sleep-away camp is going good. I will say that I feel a good amount of homesickness, but the activities have helped…”

I wanted to cradle those little girls in my arms and assure them that “everything is going to be wonderfully okay,” but I couldn’t. I knew they needed to stand tall and figure out how to be part of a wonderful sleep-away camp experience, just as I had done 70 years earlier when I went off to summer camp, and for the first few days experienced excruciating “homesickness.”

But what really is homesickness?

It seems to be an aching separation from things we’ve loved that assure us of comfort and security.

  • a nostalgic, yearning, longing for home and family
  • a rootless, lonely alienation
  • a sadness and depression perhaps caused by the absence of the warmth and love I enjoyed as the person I used to be
  • an ache in the heart
  • a lump of lead in the pit of the stomach
  • a soul at unrest

When I visited my husband Joe today in his assisted living facility, I found him notably different from earlier visits: a bit like Caroline and Fiona – unexpectedly homesick – but unable to articulate his longing with even that word, “homesickness.”

He grasped my hand, looked into my eyes and began to weep. I remember as a little girl, each time I would have to leave from visiting my maternal grandmother I would burst into tears, and hug her, and she would weep and weep. My Grandpa would always say to her, “Margaret, it’s time to turn off the water works.” But she couldn’t.

And today, with Joe, I couldn’t either. I played his favorite music on my phone and he wept, and wept. And so did I, simply because of the beauty of the music and poetry and how they framed our life together in the past. Near the end of our visit I asked, “Joe, what do you need?” He hesitatingly mumbled, “I need to hold you,” — which is nearly impossible when a beloved is posited in one of those all-encompassing wheelchairs. But we did the best we could.

I wept all the way home. Why? I asked myself.

What are my tears about? I think they are about losing our threads of connection with the images of a life we have lived and loved together.

What are my tears over? The profound anticipated loss of rivers, oceans, fish, forests, and fields as sustainers of insect, plant, animal and human life.

About 60 years ago Joe introduced me to Rudolf Bultmann’s writing entitled The Crisis of Faith in which he raised the question, “What is God in the Christian Sense?” It has stayed with me ever since:

It is God who makes man finite, and who makes a comedy of man’s care, who allows his longing to miscarry, who casts him into solitude, who sets a terminus to his knowing and doing, who calls him to duty, and who gives the guilty over to torment. And yet, at the same time it is God who forces man into life, and drives him into care; who puts longing and the desire to love in his heart; who gives him thoughts and strength for his work, and who places him in the eternal struggle between self-assertion and duty. God is the enigmatic power beyond time, yet master of the temporal, beyond being, yet working in it.

I somehow, today, believe that the Mystery is saying “No!” to my wanting to embed my happy moments with Joe or with my grandchildren in eternity (which of course I would love to), but is urging that I stand open to whatever is next needed. Hmmm. We’ll see…

But I’m still homesick…

Just a thought…


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