Thomas Wolfe famously titled one of his works You Can't Go Home Again. That's true in so many ways, and it was brought to my mind recently while I was serving as a docent at the History Museum of Travelers Rest.
One visitor was a lady who had been born and attended her early elementary grades at the local school before "life" took her away for nearly 50 years. She now hails from southwestern Utah. She was passing through TR and wanted to see what had changed since she last was here.
She said that she recognized hardly anything--except in the old photos we showed her. She was particularly interested in looking at books of photos from an earlier time. She had forgotten the names and locati0ns of once-familiar roads and buildings. She did remember, however, that she had lived in a green house with a horseshoe-shaped driveway in the front, but it no longer existed. And she remembered that a famous psychologist had been their neighbor. We suggested a name, and her eyes suddenly lit up.
J.B. Watson, the "father of behaviorism."
After she left, I was haunted by the question of whether one can go home again. I tried to put myself in our visitor's shoes. That wasn't hard. I know how she felt returning to her birthplace.
I've lived approximately half my life at home (i.e., under my parents' roof and later, as an adult, in same the general area, though not in the same house. The other half of my life, I've lived elsewhere, out of state. The most recent period during which I lived "at home" was 19 years ago. I've occasionally but infrequently made return visits to see family members or was simply passing through en route to somewhere else.
I no longer recognize much of anything there now. They've torn down buildings I once used as navigational landmarks. Those buildings have been replaced by structures that look nothing like the old ones they replaced. Old businesses are gone. New businesses--mostly chain franchises, it seems--have replaced them. Old roads have been widened or rerouted.
And the people there are different, too. Whenever I return, I see no one I once knew. No one knows me. Those I once knew have moved, passed away, or just disappeared. Much as I must have seemed to them to have disappeared myself. No one knows me.
"Whatever happened to ____?" I ask.
No one knows. Perhaps no one even remembers them.
A distant relative called me from my old hometown on the evening of March 10 to ask some questions about our mutual genealogy. She sounded strong and vigorous despite her 88 years. We agreed that everyone in the community where I grew up seemed to be related in some way.
Whenever Daddy and I would be driving through the community and someone passed us and waved, I'd ask Daddy, "Who was that?" Practically every time, he'd reply, "That was your cousin." I used to think he was just pulling my leg, but now I think he must have been telling the truth.
But less than two weeks after that phone conversation with my relative, I received a message from her son (yet another cousin somewhere down the line) saying that she had passed away. Seemingly unchangeable things change. Pastures become subdivisions. Cow paths become highways. A once timber-covered knob is denuded for construction of a monstrously ugly house. People who were themselves landmarks in the community pass. New people move in without the history, memories, or values of the old community I remember. No one seems to care about the community's past or how they came to be who they are today.
The past is swallowed up by the present.
So in that sense, whenever one tries to go home again, it proves to be an exercise in futility that leads only to disappointment and dismay.
But in another sense, one can go home again--but only in one's memory. If the memories remain, one can go home again by recalling and reliving them. Perhaps the memories will not be 100 percent accurate; others may recall the same things but from a different perspective or with different details. But the important thing is that the memories remain, etched indelibly on one's brain.
The most terrible aspect of dementia or Alzheimer's is the loss of even those memories. That's why it's so important to cherish the memories while we have them, perhaps brought to the fore again by an old photo, an old document, or a seemingly (to others, anyway) unimportant, insignificant memento or travel souvenir.
If, like me, you discover that the home to which you try to return has changed unrecognizably, work to revive the memories of it as you once knew it. Dig up and preserve those old photos. Beware of discarding the mementos retained from years gone by. Drag them out, conserve them, and resurrect memories from them.
But there's a more important "going home" we must consider.
Today is called "Good Friday." As a child, I couldn't understand why people called it that. What was good about it? After all, hadn't Jesus Christ been crucified on that day?
Only later did I learn and realize personally its significance. It was not called "good" because Christ was crucified that day but because of what He did three days later. He arose victorious over death and sin, having paid the penalty for all who would believe in Him. If He had not died and risen from the grave, there could be no salvation.
That's why the death, burial, and (especially) resurrection of Christ is called the gospel, or "good news." No other news could be as good as that or even come close to matching it.
Like many other things that are good, however, Satan tries to drown it in other things of comparative insignificance. The religious import must compete with an Easter bunny, colorful eggs, Easter baskets, egg rolls and hunts, chocolate bunnies, Cadbury eggs, Peeps, jelly beans, the Food City Dirt Race. Anything but the truly si9gnificant facts that make Easter important.
Distract, divert, deceive, and destroy. That's how Satan works.
But the good news is that he is already a defeated foe. His defeat began at the Cross on that first Good Friday, and it was made complete on that first Easter Sunday, Resurrection Day. None of the distractions, diversions, or deceptions can change what Christ did. Unlike all other religions, Christianity can boast an empty tomb.
So see Good Friday as the good news that it is. That day makes it possible to "go home" to the special place Christ is now preparing in heaven for all who believe in Him and accept Him as their personal Savior. After all, as the song says, "This world is not my home; I'm just a passin' through!"
The only question remaining is to which world that other world will be. The choice is yours. "It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment. . . ." (Heb. 9:27). Choose carefully!