“Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some people move our souls to dance. They awaken us to a new understanding with the passing whisper of their wisdom. Some people make the sky more beautiful to gaze upon. They stay in our lives for awhile, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never, ever the same.” — Flavia Weedn
I hadn’t heard or seen this quote in its entirety before! I had only heard the first and last sentences strewn together, skipping over the ones in between. This inspirational quote is often used to ease the pain of missing someone who has gone from our life in what we think was too short a time and to acknowledge the depth of the impact they have left on our hearts.
But why must it refer only to those who have gone from our lives too quickly? We need only remove the phrase “and quickly go” to read this as relating to many more people throughout our lives. So many people have come into my life and while some have stayed but a very short time, others have either remained constant in their presence or constant in heart even while we’ve been separated by both time and miles.
What joy there is in those who have moved our souls to dance! How our lives have been enriched by those whose “passing whisper of their wisdom” has awakened something in us that may otherwise have remained dormant forever. And what creative artistry must one possess to make even the sky more beautiful? Each person who has done one of these things has given us gifts beyond measure. But there are those precious few who, by their very presence in our lives, have provided all of this and changed our lives forever.
And yet, there are others who we may have known only from a distance. Not the superstars, the celebrities, authors, politicians or the like, but the everyday people who may have seemed insignificant in our lives, who may have only crossed our path for a brief moment of life. What of them? To paraphrase Gandhi — “whoever you meet may seem insignificant at the time, but it is most important that you know them.” There are those with whom we may have had only a fleeting encounter and yet they have somehow left us richer for the experience. We may not even be able to recall them to mind when asked, but when they are mentioned, something strikes a chord within us that says “yes, I remember her, her smile always made me think the world was a better place” or “I knew him once, he did a simple thing for me that was nothing more than his job but he taught me how to make others feel important” or “I was a stranger and she made me feel like I belonged” or “he just accepted me for who I am.”
These are the people who come into our lives and quickly go, whether we actually know them or not, whether we interact with them once or a dozen times, whether we form friendships for short periods of our youth, whether or not we ever even have a chance to tell them that they changed our lives for the better. If we simply open ourselves to the possibility, we may find innumerable footprints on our hearts and we will know that, in fact, after every encounter “we are never, ever the same.” It’s up to us to determine if we will use that change to move someone else’s soul to dance.
I confess I’ve never read the book You Can’t Go Home Again but the phrase itself has taken on a life of its own in our everyday language. How often we hear folks say it because they’ve tried to return to a particular place that they once did call home only to find that it just wasn’t what they remembered or hoped it would be.
I recently visited the town I lived in when I was in high school (40 years ago). As I drove through my old neighborhood I was astounded by the new housing developments, although why I would be astounded at this after 40 years is really inexplicable! But as I drove on, I found myself noticing and remembering “that was Johnny’s house, there’s Jeannie’s house and there’s where Frieda lived.” I turned the corner and recognized the house I had lived in (with some improvements over the years but basically the same) and yet it wasn’t home — it was merely a memory. I vaguely remember the childhood homes of some other friends and what I believe their neighborhoods looked like, but I couldn’t have found any of them if I tried. We drove past the high school and some old landmarks, and while I recognized a few of these and some of the street names, I wouldn’t be able to find my way around at all.
I’ve had the pleasure of reconnecting with a few of my old friends from those days through FB but my memory isn’t good so I’ll see the names and faces of others from my class but the names are from so long ago and the faces have changed over these 40 years. Some I recognize while others are only vaguely familiar, and while many of them remember each other, I suspect many would not remember me. They had gone through grade school together and grew up in town sharing the memories of childhood into their teen years and beyond. Many have stayed or moved just a short distance, maintaining strong ties to the community of their youth. I was just a temporary/passing acquaintance for most as a shy girl who had moved in and out in just 4 short years.
Our high school days were a different world. We didn’t discuss politics; we weren’t talking about multiculturalism or justice issues; there was an underpinning of racism, of classism and of sexism that weren’t talked about much and we certainly didn’t discuss sexuality. We were just kids — learning to drive, perhaps partying a bit too much, struggling with school work (or not), cheering on our sports teams, working part-time jobs and/or volunteering. It wasn’t idyllic like the nostalgia of the 1950s, we weren’t immune to suffering — we saw some of our friends become teenage mothers and we buried a few of our classmates, others suffered life-altering injuries, and, often unbeknownst to us, others were facing problems we couldn’t even imagine. As our lives changed we didn’t know who we would become or if we’d want to know the adults our friends would become.
Reconnecting after all these years we find that we may not have as much in common as we once thought. We’ve become Republicans, Democrats and Independents; pro-choice and pro-life; gun supporters and gun control supporters; gay, straight, bisexual and transgender; Christian, Muslim, Jew and atheist; the lists can go on and on. But social media has opened up the world to us in ways we wouldn’t have dreamed possible. We can reconnect despite our differences, and the distance social media affords allows us a space to express our opinions, disagree and still be “friends.”
While I was traveling I didn’t get much chance to meet up with folks I had known in high school except for the three days I was blessed to spend with one very dear friend. When we were girls in high school we likely didn’t know who we would become ourselves, much less who the other would become. And yet, on some level we did know who we were in our hearts, how that would inspire us to become who we are today and that our kindred spirits would recognize each other even if our eyes did not.
“You can’t go home again” — the words resounded in my head. There was little I recognized about the town where I had spent my youth, it wasn’t home, it was only a dim memory. It seems like a nice town — the population has doubled and the town has been built up beyond recognition — but it isn’t my town. As much as I loved it when I was there, I don’t think it ever really was.
And then there’s another saying we have about home — home is where the heart is. Like I said, it seems like a nice town and I did love it when I was there, but it isn’t where my heart is. If I had to define a place, a location where my heart is, it would have to be mid-coast Maine, a place I never really lived but is somehow home for me. It’s a beautiful, serene place along a rocky coast where I travel whenever I have the chance. It’s also a place where I’ve had some of my deepest spiritual epiphanies. But while this beautiful rocky coast calls to me, it is only a place, an amazingly beautiful one where I can be at one with myself and my surroundings, but nevertheless only a place. Perhaps home isn’t necessarily a place but rather a way of being.
I rather think that home is not so much where the heart is as our hearts are where our home is. Visiting with my friend was a homecoming. Not because I was returning to a place I once called home, but rather because I was coming home to someone/something in my heart. My heart is filled with special people — my wife (who will always be the heart of my heart, the love of my life and my home at all times in all ways); dear friends, near and far, old and new, present or not; family members of all generations, known and not known.
What a joy to know that I can go home again. To know that home is not a place where I have to go to touch those in my heart but rather that by touching those in my heart, I find myself at home. And when I am blessed to see those in my heart face to face, whether we were last together this morning or 40 years ago, our hearts won’t know the span of time — we will know each other and pick up where we left off as if it were only yesterday.