You may have read a version of this story before, but what can I say … It was one of those defining moments in my life.
It was the time I stumbled and fell over an innocent, four-worded question.
To her credit, she waited until I had stowed my carry-on in the overhead compartment and settled into my seat before she launched into the obligatory small-talk.
We were, after all, about to spend twelve hours with our elbows touching, and I’d never even met the fifty-something woman who had scored the aisle seat next to me.
“Are you heading home?” she asked.
And that’s where I tripped over my tongue.
I hesitated. A little too long.
Then finally, “Um … yeah. Well, no. Uh … I’m not sure.”
I wouldn’t have blamed her if she’d flagged down the flight attendant right then and there. I can picture the hypothetical conversation now: “Um, excuse me, miss, but this girl doesn’t know where she’s going.”
“My mom died this morning,” I blurted out, the aircraft still grounded on the Cape Town runway.
The kind woman gushed condolences and well-intentioned words of sympathy before I could attempt to redeem my earlier fumble.
“I’ve been living in Africa for the past eight years and my mom just died in my hometown in MIchigan. So, I guess I’m heading home. But not really. I mean, my husband and kids are still here in Cape Town, so …”
My voice drifted, and I realized the answer to her original question hadn’t become any clearer for either of us.
Was I heading home? Or not?
The conflicting voices of my heart kickstarted a long-lasting soul search.
Where was my home?
That conversation happened three years ago.
In the meantime, I’ve thought and even written a lot about the concept of home.
And what I’ve come to learn is this:
This is not it.
This life, this living in between, this sojourn … it’s all temporary.
And there is an eternal.
Ever since my mom died and I’ve started thinking a whole lot more about heaven, I’ve made a more conscious effort in my thinking, my praying, my writing, my parenting — to remember that every day is one step closer to eternity.
And hopefully the next time I step onto a plane and get asked the same question, “Are you heading home?” … I’ll be able to answer with confidence, “Yes. Yes, I am.”
Not because of my earthly destination, but because of my hope in eternity.
Aren’t they so great?!
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See you all this weekend, and until then, remember: Words Matter.