Though I am Protestant, I often pray the Catholic Liturgy of the Hours. Many nights, I read Evening Prayers to Joshua and Katherine (along with Goodnight Moon). Recently, the first psalm was 137. I read the first verses over several times, surprisingly choked up:
“By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. There on the poplars we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’ How can we sing the songs of the LORD while in a foreign land?”
It was comforting while being emotionally evocative, because it felt like being given Biblical permission to feel homesick. “By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion.” If God’s chosen people felt it, it must be okay for me too.
As I worked on the article for the National Right to Life News, and as I concluded it with talking about the Teens 4 Life Summit in D.C. this January, I thought about visiting the capital city for the Summit.
Every time I think of D.C., I feel bereft. My parents lived there for a year, summer of 2009 till a few months ago. Because it is only an eight-hour drive from Rhode Island, we visited often. For holidays (Thanksgiving and Christmas), for events (the March for Life), for sightseeing (with various friends), for just because (like last September when I felt my homesickness as a cannonball in my throat).
I had deeply emotional conversations at that house – both the good kind and the bad kind, and both kinds burn themselves heavily into the memory. The fight with one brother that left me sobbing hysterically on Christmas Eve. The conversation with the other brother that foreshadowed the breakup of his engagement. The reconciling Skype talk with an old friend that lifted a years-old weight off my shoulders. The box of tissues and cartons of ice cream I went through with my friend Jenn. The email I sent to my husband when I was there without him that launched greater intimacy in our marriage. The late-night heart-to-heart with my mom about boys and broken hearts we never had when I was in high school. The laughter over too many bottles of good wine shared by the neighbor.
And the runs. So many great runs I had there. The snowy Thanksgiving run when I got up early to pray for my friend Meghan who had a race that morning. The incline of death right by the house that ended every run with a literal uphill battle. The mud puddles that baptized my new shoes. The churning and thinking and processing and putting together of emotional pieces.
I thought about all of that, and it stung like a snapped rubber band to remember that I am now cut off from it all. There’s something so final about the impossibility of returning to a place where memories were made. The tangibility of going back – the way the physical place strengthens the sensory details of memories – makes the cut-off memories feel more ephemeral by contrast. Somehow, if I can’t go back, I feel like they’ll slip out of my grip…they lose their sensory dimension, and I wonder if they happened at all.
I thought about all of them, and I said, “God, I am NOT okay that my parents don’t live in D.C. any more.”
And I feel terrible for even thinking that. My dad is alone in Germany, living in temporary housing, living out of suitcases. My mom is alone in Colorado, homeless, household goods in storage. The house they tried to buy had problems with the short sale, leaving my mom unable to close. She lived with my brother and then, when he left for flight school, with friends.
My dad is alone. My mom is homeless. And I’m the one feeling lost.
Somehow the loss of homes over time has been cumulative, “increasing by successive additions.” Falls Church wasn’t even MY home…but its being the latest in the series of lost family homes deeply affected me. I’m not okay that it’s gone. I’m not okay that I can’t go back. Several times, I’ve thought, “I’ll just drive down to D.C. and…” then remember I can’t.
While I figure out this mess of making a home in this world, contenting myself in Rhode Island for now, risking the putting down of roots that will inevitably be ripped up, longing for the permanence of heaven, I am comforted that it’s okay to feel the losses. “By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion.”
You might also like to read these similar posts: