Last week, I came across a blog post that Rory Feek had written and shared about a visit he and his daughter had made back to Indiana for the first time since his wife, Joey Feek, passed from cancer back in March. The strength and faith that these two exhibited touched so many all around the world. As I read Rory’s post, I was struck when he shared something that his father-in-law said when they went back to Joey’s childhood home and the place where she passed away.
Then we all went across the pond and Bill opened up the house for us that we had stayed in while we were there those last few months in Indiana. Joey’s daddy had come to that house often he said. Most days he stops by and just sits outside. “This is where I feel Joey the most”, he told us, ‘…where she lived last”. But he’d not been inside since that day in March when his daughter left us, exactly three months before.
It’s amazing sometimes to think about the things that tie us to certain places. When a particular place is full of happy memories, going back and reminiscing is a joyful thing. When a place is marked with sadness, we want to block it from our lives and memories completely. When it comes to losing someone so precious to us, I think we sometimes feel a little of both sides. On the one hand, the places where our loved ones left this earth is marked with an unimaginable sadness because they are no longer with us but on the other, we can be filled with joy that this was where they lived last and went to go be with the Lord.
I found myself struck by Joey’s father’s description of the home as “where she lived last.” Back in September, when my family lost my grandmother and my aunt less than 48 hours apart, so much of this little North Carolina town became marked with a wide range of emotions and memories. This town, barely a blip on the map and so easy to pass right through, was a place that held so many of my happiest childhood (and young adult) memories. But now, this hospital that was a few miles down the road became the place where my grandmother breathed her last. This exit off Interstate 85, one that we never really had to take to get where we were headed, was the place where we lived as we prepared ourselves for her passing. My grandmother’s home, where I had spent many a weekend and holiday with my family, became the place where my aunt left this earth in the middle of night, just a few hours before her mother’s funeral.
A few months after the passing of these two women, my mom and her siblings chose to put the house on the market. For the first time in my life, the home was empty. It was five months after my aunt’s death before I returned to my grandmother’s home. On the night Aunt Shelia died, I stood outside in the front yard as the paramedics worked on her in that back bedroom. But on this day, with the home now clear of all furniture and belongings, I walked inside. While my mom talked with her brother and sister in the front living room, I walked to that back bedroom and took just one step inside. The best description that I can give is that this place now felt haunted. No, not haunted like Casper or some Haunted Mansion, but just heavy with the memory of what had occurred just a few months prior. The room where my aunt passed away in the middle of the night was the same room that my family and I would share on just about every overnight visit we made to my grandmother when she was living in the house. The bed where my aunt had been sleeping when she had the heart attack was the same bed that I had slept in just a few days earlier when my grandmother had been admitted to the hospital a few miles away.
But as I stood in the room where my precious aunt lived last, I offered up a prayer of gratitude to God. Gratitude for the years that I had with her in my life. Aunt Shelia was there the day I was born and had been like a bonus mom all through my childhood. Gratitude for His presence and strength that had been carrying me through each day since her passing. As the Bible tells us in Psalm 147:3, “He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds.”
My grandmother’s home isn’t just the place where my aunt left this earth for the kingdom of heaven. It is the place where joy, happiness, and love overflowed. It is the last place Aunt Shelia saw before she saw the glorious face of Jesus. It is the place where she lived last.