I've heard it called a homegoing service. It's a softer sounding name than the somber word "funeral". We're going to see another member of the generation before us laid to rest. This time it's my husband's uncle, the pastor who helped my family through a really difficult time in our lives. We've already said goodbye to both my parents and my husband's father. Most of our aunts and uncles are gone now. Many of the older ones that were members of our church when we first moved here seventeen years ago are in heaven now. It's a strange season to be in, joining the ranks of those who get the "senior discounts" and the people you thought of as the older ones going home one by one.
As we drive the miles and pass the hours, we drive through memories scattered about all out of chronological order. It's as though someone has put together a photo album all willy nilly, with our family photos all out of sequence. Familiar scenery zooms by out the car window.
There's the road to the denominational office where we worked when life was more about climbing the organizational ladder than caring about people. There's the exit we'd take when we pastored the church in the small town where my girls spent their middle and high school years. A little farther down the freeway and we'd hit the cutoff toward the coast, the place we were youth pastors at when our youngest daughter was born.
Periodically a rain shower streaks the window and hinders the view. As we drive through the familiar places, memories of tears and heartache are mingled with memories of laughter and joy.
We leave the freeway and head over the pass through the mountains. There I go back in time, before ministry and marriage and children. It's summertime and mama's got the car all packed with camping supplies, food and goodies she's been baking ahead of time. We're heading to our favorite camping spot by the lake where my aunt and cousins from California will meet us for a week of pure youthful bliss.
Thinking about it now, decades later, I realize that tent camping and sleeping on the ground and still having to cook for and clean up after us couldn't have been much of a restful vacation for our mama, who worked so hard to support us kids now that daddy was gone. But, oh what great memories she gave us!
We get to the town where the funeral will be held. We check into our room, then head out to get something to eat. We drive through the familiar streets. This was the town we did all of our business and shopping in when we pastored our very first tiny little home missions church. It was located on a former Indian reservation and our very small congregation was mainly native Americans. Our oldest daughter was three when we first moved there and our second born still a baby. We were young and naive and inexperienced and poor as church mice. But miracles of God's provision and intervention in our lives were abundant in our short time there.
At dinner we sit across the table with my husband's sister and her husband. Our conversation drifts from talking about the uncle that will be laid to rest in the morning, to talking about their parents and memories of our younger married years as well as memories of their childhood. It seems as though this whole trip has been a homegoing of another kind, a journey through the past. We've remembered it's highs and it's lows, and recognized that woven through it all there has always been the evidence of God's faithful presence. And His faithful presence will continue to be with us, all the rest of the way on our long journey home.
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