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Monday January 2, 2017

Salty sea foam crashed against my bare ankles like a snowy avalanche engulfing twin pines. Sand retreated between my toes into the blue deep. With childlike indecisiveness, a nervous sand piper darted in and out of the lapping waves. The sun splashed an abstract portrait of orange and purple onto the skyline as night prepared to close the curtain on another day. My long-awaited vacation had arrived, yet a faint voice still whispered I had not.

My heart knew what my mind refused to concede. Paradise was at my fingertips but home was still out of reach. A line from C. S. Lewis' Mere Christianity seized my mind: "If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world." The soft ocean breeze was like an angel's breath inviting me to dream about a place I have never seen yet desperately long to visit. The scene around me awakened the longing within me. I couldn't lull it back to sleep. I didn't want to. I just wanted to go home.

Like a refugee looking for a lasting land, the desire for Heaven is native to every human heart. It reveals itself in the passing incompleteness of our greatest joys. It shines brightly in the shadow of disappointment. It's in the empty echo that returns to us from the pinnacle of success. Sometimes it whispers persistently, and other times it shouts unmet desires that demand to be heard. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews pinpointed the root of our desire when he said that Abraham looked for a city “whose builder and maker is God.”

No one knows more acutely the nature of longing than the one who has been left standing on the shore as a loved one sailed away. I am reminded of the lyrics to MercyMe's song "Homesick," which a close friend constantly played after the death of his mother: “I close my eyes and I see your face. / If home's where my heart is, then I'm out of place. / I've never been more homesick than now.” Her loss intensified his longing. Death forced him to face the reality of mortality. He became painfully aware he could never again call this transient landscape home. He was looking for a city where death is a forbidden enemy and life a welcomed resident. Maybe you can identify with the longing his loss awakened. Sometimes the yearning to hear a voice, the hunger to hold a warm hand, or the aching to glimpse a face for a moment seems almost unbearable. Their absence makes us look for a city and long for a land where we can bid farewell to goodbye. Loss makes us long for home.

Our culture demands the mourner move on even if they don't yet know where they're going. I believe the longing is a thing to embrace rather than avoid. It is the longing that pressures us to move forward, realizing that every step draws us closer to the land we're looking for, the land our loved ones already call home.

Surprisingly it was the bitter longing that made my vacation sweet. The expectation made me bask in the beauty with a greater awareness. Every pleasure became more delightful, every color brighter, and every memory sweeter knowing that these were only fleeting shadows of the better thing to come. The knowledge that we will one day live with the Artist in the land where all the beauty came from was almost more enjoyable than I could bear.

Many times since, I have been overcome with the desire to taste "again" what I have never tasted once, to hear the music my ears have never enjoyed yet somehow miss, and to embrace what I have searched for in everything else. I'm looking forward to the land of the forever hello. I'm looking for a city. I'm longing for home.

—Ben Webb, Kids Path Bereavement Coordinator

Mountain Valley Hospice & Palliative Care offers free grief support to the community at large. For more information, contact us today at 336-789-2922 (toll-free 1-888-789-2922).

Tags: Grief Support