Finding home

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ICarryYourHeart“I need to go home,” she insists.

“You are home, love,” I tell her.

“No, home.”

This is a memory from a few months ago, when it was two in the morning for the second time (daylight savings) and V was sobbing. After a hard night, she’d finally gone to bed, we thought, but then there she was, standing at the door of the bedroom I sleep in at her house, telling me she needed to go home.

It took me a minute to realize she meant Mom & Dad’s house, the house we grew up in. In this particular middle-of-the-night, she’d already called Mom, who couldn’t say no to her tearful daughter. So we found shoes, and Billy and I helped her put on clothes and a hat. I remember thinking she looked like herself as a five-year-old, herself in 1986.

She and I drove the familiar path to Mom’s and Vanessa was beside herself — death, being alone, losing. So I told her in simple phrases that she will never not be with me, and I will never not be with her. We are parts of the same whole.

I didn’t cry till later, when I was alone in my childhood bed, when I felt the boundaries of time and my timeline merging around me.

The next morning Vanessa was crying again. “Take me home,” she said. This time she meant the house she shares with her husband, a home full of pictures of the two of them and empty bedrooms for the children that never happened. So we found our shoes, collected our things and got back in the car.

It really strikes me, this word: Home.

I would say Vanessa’s use of the word as such is the tumors talking, another manifestation of her confusion, if I didn’t also find myself aching for homes in too many places. I’ve realized I call everywhere “Home!” When I’m in Terre Haute, “home” means the Cincinnati area in general, or Mom & Dad’s house. When I’m places in Cincinnati, sometimes “home” means Vanessa’s house, where I stay most of the time. But there “home” also means Terre Haute, my apartment and my husband.

Sometimes “home” is not the houses but instead the familiar roads — the feeling I get in my heart when the roads start getting curvier as I go East and then around the bend the hills of Kentucky emerge in tree-filled hellos. But even there I find myself missing the flat wetlands and cornfields of my adopted home in western Indiana.

There are so many cliches about home. There’s no place like home. Home is where the heart is, or where you hang your hat. Some say home can be a person, the feeling you get when you finally meet your person for life or when you sit next to your one and only mom.

I don’t disagree with any of these sentiments, really, but even in typing them it’s not entirely the full picture to me. Sometimes I think the only home you can ever really create for yourself is the one you go to when you close your eyes and have only your thoughts and your stories. Because the places we know as home will change, and over time you leave pieces of your heart wherever you have found things that matter. And hanging my hat? I don’t usually even pack a hat! These days I trust that if I need a hat on a winter’s day, I’ll find a hat wherever I happen to be.

And absolutely, home can be found in the people you love — but what is left when even your people cannot be your home in the obvious ways — when you can no longer sit next to them or call them up? How do you find home when death takes the people you love away?

I don’t have all the answers, but I think of what I told Vanessa: “You will never not be with me. I will never not be with you. We are parts of the same whole.”

Because what I was also saying is this: “You will never go anywhere without taking my love with you. When you leave, you are still here, because you have a home in my heart.”

It’s what e.e. cummings said:

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)



  1. ~Dana says:

    One of my favorites. Well written, and so very true. On my facebook page, in the section “about you” this is where this poem lays and has stayed put since the beginning.

    i carry your heart with me(i carry it in my heart]
    By E. E. Cummings 1894–1962
    i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
    my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
    i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
    by only me is your doing,my darling)
    i fear
    no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
    no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
    and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
    and whatever a sun will always sing is you

    here is the deepest secret nobody knows
    (here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
    and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
    higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
    and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

  2. kathy says:

    My heart is smiling and crying. I pray that you are given all the strength and peace you need. I wish I had the words to make everything better for you and V. May God hold you in his hands.

  3. Rachel says:

    This is so beautiful, Christina. You have such a wonderful heart, and a gift for seeing things that others would not… especially in the midst of tragedy.

  4. Thelma Perry Brown says:

    Beautiful!! I really needed this today as I struggle with my sister’s rapid decline. I thank God for this nugget and I thank God for the opportunity to meet Vanessa when she was in Birmingham.

  5. Litsa Spanos says:

    You are such an amazing sister to Vanessa.
    Your words are so touching and really help us understand what Vanessa is going through.
    I am very grateful to know you and your family. Thank you for sharing all of this with us.

  6. Andrew says:

    I minned my bookshelf on this morning of snow and settled on amongst others Annie Dillard’s Holy the Firm, “For outside it is bright. The surface of things outside the drops has fused. Christ himself and the others, and the brown warm wind, and hair, sky, the beach, the shattered water – all this has fused. It is the one glare of holiness; it is bare and unspeakable. There is no speech nor language; there is nothing, no one thing, nor motion, nor time. There is only this everything. There is only this, and its bright and multiple noise.” p 67-8. I don’t know why I settled on this but Dillard along with e.e. have a way of comforting me as does all writing. I hope it helps everyone in this hard time. Thanks for doing such a great job at my retreat Vanessa ’02 :) and of course to you too Christina you’re all incredible..

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