Homesick

The following is based on an excerpt from the eulogy I gave for my father at his funeral last week.

Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.  1 John 4:7

As dad was in hospice care, dying from cancer, I was able to get home for the last few days of his life.  I kept thinking that I was supposed to do some grand gesture, or say something just perfect to bring closure to our relationship.  And I realized something very comforting.  These three days allowed me to say and hear I love you a few dozen more times.  And I got to add those few dozen more I love yous to the tens of thousands of I love yous that I’ve said and heard over my life time.

My dad tended towards homesickness his whole life.  He loved his family so much, that he would go to great lengths to see them whenever he could.  As a navy serviceman, he would drive home to Salt Lake from Texas or California just for a short shore leave.  He always told me the night before I would fly away after a visit that “I’ll be depressed for two weeks.”  And then he’d call me on the phone and remind me about it, counting down the 14 days until he’d feel like himself again, always starting the phone call with “Is that my darling daughter?”   He loved deeply, and felt family attachment so palpably.

When he finished his mission in Sweden in the mid-1950s, he returned home on an ocean liner instead of an airplane.  Because he knew he was coming home this way, his dad sent him money to buy a Volvo.  Dad disembarked in New York with this new car, somehow lost most of his spending money, and decided the best thing to do with his remaining money would be just to buy gas and drive straight through from New York to Utah.  Without stopping.  He was homesick, and he wanted his parents, so he started driving.  When he got tired, he’d put the car in neutral and get out and run along beside it as it coasted down hills.  He lasted like this until he got to Denver.   In his own words, because he loved telling this story and laughing about it, he would say “I basically went nuts” from sleep deprivation.  The police found him sitting on the roof of his car in the middle of the highway just watching car after car pass, his head nodding from side to side as he watched them go.  The police figured out he was a returning missionary and took him to the mission president’s home.  My grandparents got a call from a young church office building employee named Gordon B. Hinckley.  He asked for my grandpa, thinking my grandma would be too fragile to take the news.  (He didn’t know my grandma….she was tough.)  By the time my dad woke up, grandpa had driven to Denver, and was at the mission home ready to take him home.  I just imagine what my dad must have felt, waking up in a strange place and seeing his dad after having been so homesick for his parents for the three years of his mission.

I kept thinking of this story as dad was dying.  I think internally he was doing the equivalent of driving across America with no sleep, just desperate to be with his family.  And I keep imagining what it was like when he woke up in a strange place, and there was grandpa…..and grandma, and his whole family, there to welcome him, his heart bursting with love.  And I know when it is my time, that I’ll wake up to my dad saying “There’s my darling daughter!”

Dad, I love you.

Comments

  1. Karen: this is beautiful and heartfelt, and I’m teary just thinking about how much he loved his family. God bless you in your time of mourning.

  2. It has been good the last few weeks to get to know just a little bit about the wonderful person your dad was. Lovely writing.

  3. J. Stapley says:

    Good bless you, Karen. And thank you.

  4. Thank you for sharing this, and letting us get to know your father just a little.

  5. jaxjensen says:

    Touching… Thanks!

  6. How beautiful. This sweet love of a father towards his family is irresistible. There are more than a few good men.

  7. This is so beautiful. Thank you for posting.

  8. Kevin Barney says:

    Beautiful, thank you.

  9. I think, no matter what doubts life brings us, this is every heart’s prayer. Love you, my dear friend.

  10. Very moving, Karin. Brings on the tears, but also smiles.

  11. Oh this is precious. Thank you so much for the lovely, tear-jerking words.

  12. Really wonderful vignette. Thank you!

  13. Kim S Colton says:

    This is a beautiful funeral sermon. May you be blessed in your grief.

  14. This is beautiful, Karen. And as somebody who’s driven from New York to Utah multiple times, I adore the road trip story.

  15. Kristin Brown says:

    Money cannot buy sweet tender memories. What a blessing to have a loving father. There is a wonderful reunion to look forward to in the future. Thank you for sharing your heart.

  16. Lovely. Sounds like a great father.

  17. so beautiful, thanks for sharing.

  18. Kristine says:

    This is so lovely, Karen. Thank you.

  19. Judi Jones says:

    Karen, by the time it’s your turn, I should be there too to say” There’s my lovely niece!”

  20. I’m crying over the beauty and the hope of all this, Karen. What a perfect tribute to your dad, and to the yearning to be reunited with loved ones and with home. I love that image of your dad chasing the car down hills to stay awake. It’s perfect.

  21. I too am a homesick soul. Have been since I can remember. I so relate. Thank you. I am sorry for your loss. I mean that. In our home right now we are mourning the death of a 21 year old dear friend who had leukemia.
    All passings of loved ones are painful.