It was 1989. My wife, Rae, and I had just completed a call of duty as mission workers to youth at Granton Baptist Church, Edinburgh. We enjoyed our first anniversary on Culloden Moor, near Inverness and were now enjoying a few weeks to just explore. I recall quite fondly the first time we stood together within the ruins of Tintern Abbey, not far from her birthplace in Wales. The mystery of belonging, and the sheer weight of home was overwhelming.
A Celt at heart, I think and write a great deal about the spirituality of ‘home‘ and the ache it engenders. The human heart is uniquely designed to yearn. It knows what it wants and diligently seeks it out – sometimes in unsavory, even desperate, ways. Our sacred procurements can quickly become what derails us from procurement of the sacred. But God knows our heart and the passions to which it is given, both good and bad.
What do you think of when you think of ‘home?’ A family room, lavishly bedecked with Christmas finery? A dining room table around which sit the people who grace your life? A certain place to which you return for solace when life goes south? For Rae, my wife of twenty-seven years, it is Britain. We both grew up in Calgary, Alberta on the uneven foothills that slowly crawl their way up the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains. But the ancient Celtic hillsides, grey and mournful skies, and songful souls of Wales are for her, home.
We met while in mutual mourning. I had just lost my father to cancer a few months earlier. She was a girl in the throes of anguish, watching her mother waste away with the same plight. Rae is an only child, not because that was the desire of her parents, but because she was the only one to survive of numerous pregnancies. A survivor she remains to this day.
Only-children learn to be self-sustaining, imaginative, and scrappy in order to live their lives outside the interdependency of other kids in the family. With the lack of siblings, they often grow deeply independent, and extremely close to their parents, taking on signs of maturity well before others. All this is true of Rae.
She lost her mom in August of 1986, almost a year after I lost my dad. She and her dad, now alone, forged a new life together on their own. In a sense, Rae took over many of the aspects of care and mutual friendship that previously existed between her parents. They often spent evenings simply crying together. Her father was lost without his partner, and the many tendernesses known only to lovers. His habitual journey from kitchen to bedroom every morning with tea and toast for his wife was now enjoyed by Rae. In honor of this tradition, I bring her coffee every morning. These little things help keep the big things in place.
The friendship born of the mutual bond of grief has lasted to this day. Since losing her parents, any family of origin are gone. In a sense, she is alone on this continent. To help her contextualize this and many other competing voices within her, she started writing a novel a little over three years ago. It is, of course, based in the UK.
Because I so keenly identify with her longing for home, and because, as a writer myself, I am her biggest fan, it has been my desire to help her return. I have developed a Giveforward crowd-based fundraising campaign to assist in getting her back to Britain where she may visit her remaining relatives, and finish research for her book.
If you feel as pulled toward home as we do, please consider making a donation, however small, to help her feet once again touch her own hallowed ground. You may do so here.
Diolch yn fawr iawn (thank you very much in Welsh)
Picture of Calgary found here