There’s something significantly special about the mere mention of home at this time of year that strikes an empathetic cord, strums the emotional heart strings and replays the melody of childhood memories.
Whether it’s Bing Crosby’s famous rendition of the most requested song at Christmas U.S.O.’s – when the soldiers of World War II learned they would not be home for Christmas after all; or a 16-year-old boy’s longing to be reunited with his mom – which will never happen; or saying the two most difficult words in any language at the bedside of a dear loved one who is leaving for the final time, home is where the heart longs to be.
With perhaps his signature “I’ll be Home for Christmas”, Crosby was said to have accomplished more for military morale than anyone else of that era. As it turns out, the tender place touched in the hearts of Americans, both soldiers and civilians, who were then in the depths of the war, was also the reason the astronauts of Gemini 7, in December of 1965, requested NASA Mission Control to have that very tune played as they returned home from the longest flight in the U.S. space program.
With all of the technological advancement and engineering sophistication that can permit highly-trained specialists piloting spacecraft to hurtle through the darkness for the first ever rendezvous somewhere in outer space, yet there’s a stronger pull and deeply embedded something that tugs at the heart – hard-wired for home.
Ironically enough – like the sixteen-year-old Buck Ram who actually wrote “I’ll be Home for Christmas” – the lyrics written when he was a homesick college student, another sixteen-year old literally showed up on our doorstep early this month of November. We’ve been housing him ever since and are now pursuing Foster Care. The other night he watched the movie Antwone Fisher, and he cried. The hard exterior shell of this tough young kid – some of life’s hardest experiences making his heart impervious to the assaults of all who would scale the walls to reach inside – began to crumble. It was the moment in the movie when Fisher – played by Denzel Washington – is reunited with his mother and together they’re sharing Thanksgiving Dinner. The 16-year-old in our story cried because that won’t ever be possible again. In just a few days from now his mother will have been dead one year. They never got to say ‘good-bye’. His father doesn’t know he exists.
And this very week, the week of Thanksgiving, when family will gather for the traditional game of touch football followed by the laughter that will ring from the walls even long after the last piece of pie and all have returned to their own homes, this week will likely be the home-going of my wife’s dear sister following her long battle with cancer.