Memories of homesickness
I was homesick for the very first time. Even though I had been at Parris Island, S.C., for several weeks undergoing the rigorous Marine Corps boot camp, now called “basic warrior training,” I had not had the time to think much about home.
At 19, I had not been away from home more than a day or so before enlisting. Now, it was approaching the two-month mark.
For the first time, I had a short break of 15-20 minutes and, also for the first time, I was alone and left unattended. The sun was just coming up over the waters as I stood watching. A gentle breeze cooled the morning air. It would be a clear day. It was Sunday morning. More specifically, it was Easter Sunday morning.
My mind drifted back home to the white house at the top of the hill on Busbee Street in Kingsport, Tenn. Everyone would still be asleep at this early hour, including my only brother, Wayne, who was 11.
Our house was not large and he and I shared a bedroom as we had done almost since he was brought home from the hospital.
Although Dad and Mom were early risers, they typically would sleep in until around 7 a.m. on Sundays. Soon, the house would be filled with the aroma of bacon, freshly baked biscuits, eggs and gravy.
A few houses down, Steve, who had been my friend since we were 5 years old and who would later be the best man at my wedding, would be making his way to church at Mountain View United Methodist Church out in Preston Woods on Orebank Road.
He and I had been attending the church since we were about 15 and we had both been active in the youth group.
Not all of our high school youth group buds would be there on this Sunday. Some were now in college. One was a Marine on station somewhere. I was at Parris Island. Others were similarly scattered.
I began to think about the church and realized that I missed the sermons by the Reverend Fred L. Austin, the man who was responsible for my being in church. “Reverend Freddie,” as we called him — behind his back — was a warm, youthful pastor who welcomed the teenagers who found their way to the church.
Many of the kids had parents who never darkened the door of the church but we were never treated any differently than the kids whose parents were church pillars and strong supporters. It was “our church” too and we loved and embraced it.
On this Easter Sunday morning, as much as I missed my family, I especially missed being in the services. The church would be filled to capacity, of course, and most of the youth would be sitting together. The music would be uplifting, the choir would be excellent, and Easter would be joyous. And I would not be there.
I think it was the first time that I thought to myself that “everybody ought to be in church, especially on Easter.”
The experience at Mountain View had prepared me to make a deep commitment to Christ, which I had done only a few weeks earlier.
Instead of being in worship on the highest and holiest day of the Church calendar, instead of being surrounded by people who celebrated life, and who basked in their relationship with God, I would, for a few moments, be alone, suffering from profound homesickness, and fighting the rising lump in my throat.
Then, all too suddenly, the brief respite was over and I was back on duty, leaving the beautiful water, the blue sky, the gentle breeze, and my homesickness behind.
My parting thought was, “Everybody ought to be in Church in Easter.” I thought it then; I think it now.
[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, 4881 Hwy. 34 E., Sharpsburg, GA 30277. Services are held Sundays at 8:30 and 10 a.m. (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop Diocese of the Mid-South (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and is the associate endorser for U.S. military chaplains for his denomination. He may contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.]