What is home? According to the dictionary, home can be a physical place, such as a house or a town. It can be a source; a refuge; or an environment which provides happiness and security. But the most common definition of home is simply, "The place where one lives."
I reside in a simple furnished efficiency in an old brick building in the heart of a big city. It's where I sleep, shower, answer the telephone and collect my mail. But it is not my home.
For me, home has never been a physical structure or a geographical location. It has always taken a human form. Home has always been my father and mother.
Most of my adult life, I lived far from home. The small city where I grew up and where my parents resided had little to offer, so I moved away to large urban centers, seeking job opportunities, culture, and the big-city lifestyle.
But at every opportunity, I went back to visit Mom and Dad. On holidays, vacations, three-day weekends, it was always understood that I was "going home." I took planes, trains, buses, and automobiles hundreds of miles just to feel their embrace and to experience the joy of family.
Between visits, I ran up hefty long-distance phone bills staying in touch. Home was where I called to talk about my day, to give and get advice, to feel connected. It was where those I loved, and those who loved me, resided. No matter what I did or where I went, home was the one thing that remained constant.
Until three years ago, when my parents left to be with God.
As I tried to pick up the pieces, I felt something vast was missing from my life. Something intrinsic. Something I could not describe. I grew to realize what that enormous void was. I'd lost not only my parents, I had lost my home.
I refer not to the house my parents lived in, which I'd never been terribly fond of. Nor to my hometown, a place I'd always thought of as dull. Home was neither of those things. It was that special bond between my parents and me - a bond that could not be replaced.
In the years that followed, I attempted to recreate a sense of home. But it eluded me. Holidays and time off became something to dread. Work seemed less meaningful. Friends grew distant and detached. I had lost my grounding, my reference point, my sense of belonging.
How does one recapture home? Some say we must create it amid our surroundings. Others argue we must seek it within ourselves. I've found both exercises to be extremely difficult.
I find the most truth in the old saying, "Home is where the heart is."Mine can be found among the memories of my parents; their teachings, their concern for my welfare, their pride in my accomplishments, their wisdom, their love. I may continue to inhabit my urban efficiency, but my heart - and home - are elsewhere.
Three years ago I lost my earthly home, but I'm comforted by the hope that a heavenly one awaits where I will once again feel my parents' embrace. Hebrews 13:14 (NLT) promises, "For this world is not our home; we are looking forward to our city in heaven, which is yet to come."
Copyright © Deborah Akel.
Deborah Akel is a freelance writer living in Washington, DC. Originally from Canton, Ohio, she has worked in broadcast news in San Francisco, Sacramento, Cleveland, and New York. She was a writer in the White House Office of Communications and advanced the Kerry-Edwards presidential campaign. She wrote this article in loving memory of her mother and father.
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