There is an interesting set of events that happen as folks reach a certain age and that is the attachment to home. As we age and the cares and vicissitudes of life set in and we find ourselves tenuously grasping that thing called home. Can I stay in my home? Is the house that I call home arranged so that I can live in my home? Those three steps coming out of the garage into the kitchen that I used to jump up now seem like Mount Everest and the trip to the basement is all but impossible. It is a real thing that happens and few are the folks that I have known that don’t have special issues at some time in life, dealing with “home”.
There is a time when the determination to get “home” from the hospital or a swing bed or whatever is tempered by actually getting back to the familiar environment that was what made “home”, home. The coffee and news routine in the morning is changed. The comfortable chair is impossible to sit in and the simple acts of getting dressed can be a major problem. Maneuvering what was a familiar mine field of comfortable things and appliances is now actually dangerous. Suddenly the place that was longed for is foreign and spooky, at least for a while.
There is an industry that has arisen around the notion that folks want to remain home. All kinds of tools and appliances and medical care stuff is available and there are folks that are professionally licensed to teach people how to stay at home. Things that we cannot even think about now become issues when the depressing things that a lot of folks see in Ecclesiastes 12 come to pass. There comes a time when even putting on our shoes can be a major feat of thought and technological planning. There was that time when the extended family were all together and the infirm and disabled were simple overwhelmed and helped by the other folks in the family. Grandpa couldn’t get up and down the stairs – the family carried him. There was a time not long ago where there would be a grandma and grandpa, mom and dad and their children all in one house and the house was not that big. The houses that I see being built have garages that are bigger than those old houses. In fact some of the houses have five garages that all bigger than those old houses. What is amazing that often those houses are the dwellings for one man and one women. The idea of family has changed and the family “home” that used to be the gathering place for everyone for years has changed to the point where family get togethers have to take place at some “neutral spot” usually a lake.
Where is the home? Is it where the children are or where old friends are? Younger people that I know that want to buy their parent’s old home as a gathering place for the extended family of brothers and sisters to come and “get the family together” find out to their discomfort that the model family they imagined has no intention or desire to come back to the old place. They have families and homes of their own and the old connections are broken. We used to do a sort of pilgrimage “home” when I was a kid. We drove over a thousand miles all together in a pickup with a bag of water in a burlap sack in front of the radiator and our trip took us from San Diego to Gardena and Carbury North Dakota, to a grandma and two grandpas. This took place every year for a long time and I always felt a sense of guilt in my parents that they had moved so far from their parents. They were both the oldest kids and felt a sense of responsibility, but the vicissitudes of life meant that to care for one part of their family they had to move away from the other part of the family.
The idea of home and place have changed with cell phones and the internet while the idea of skype and face time have changed what it means to be “there” or “here”. So home is a philosophical and emotional construct that always leads the Christian to the idea of the eternal home – the place of God’s elect. It is the opposite of what ever that is that we have approached in the last chapter of Ecclesiastes. So Ecclesiastes sets the table for a hankering after a home that is the place as the hymn says, where our prince Jesus will ever be with us. And perhaps that is the point. Life is meant to point us to, and make us long for, the place prepared for us before the foundations of the world. That is a strange concept but all of our discussions of fatalism and determinism have been leading us to a very interesting principle of life and how Christians see it. Of course like all things that are truly “in Christ” it is the opposite of what most of think it should be.