May 25, 2020

Almost Home

He looked like a university professor—tall and fit, with an interesting face encircled by gray hair and a neatly trimmed beard.

The first time I saw him we passed in the hall at the assisted living facility where my mother resided. With his business casual clothes and firm stride, I assumed he was a visitor. A week later he was hanging out by the front desk holding a stuffed animal. Was it a gift for a relative? When I spoke to him, he said one word, “Almost.”

These are the words I think when another friend loses a loved one.

Several days later my mother told me she had a new neighbor and proceeded to describe this gentleman. She whispered, “I’m not sure he’s all there.” I passed him in the hall as I left and said hello. He replied, “Almost home.”

Almost home. The only two words I’ve ever heard him speak. Almost home.What do those words mean to him? What is he trying to say?

Maybe he’s in the facility temporarily, or wishes he was. Maybe like other residents he sits by the front door waiting for someone, anyone, to come to take him home. It breaks my heart when these elderly waifs look up with recognition when I walk by even though I’ve never seen them before. One of them said to me, “Do you know who’s here?” When I replied that I didn’t, she said, “Well, I’m here.”

Almost home. I’ve come to love this gentle man. His words move me. I especially love their message of hope and longing—almost home. It’s why I drive faster at the end of the day than at the beginning. It’s the deep background to all my mother’s conversations about my father. They’re the words I think when another friend loses a loved one.

Almost home. Like stepping from the dock into a canoe, we stand with a foot in two worlds: one solid, one shaky. One tangible and predictable, the other an anticipated adventure. The present one in the valley of the shadow. The future one filled with the promise of reunion and rejoicing. We exist in one. We will live in the other.

Until our dreams come true, we strive and thrive. We nibble on the hors d’oeuvres of eternity and imagine the banquet. We see a little bit of heaven in the smile of a baby and feel it in the hug of a friend. We may not be preparing the mansions, but we’re building the families and friends who will inhabit them.*

Almost heaven. Almost home.

Janet Van Why is a member of the Albuquerque Central Seventh-day Adventist Church in New Mexico

*Scripture quotations marked NASB are from the New American Standard Bible, copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.