“Going Home,” Oct. 4, 2022

What do you do when it seems there’s nothing you can do?

I recently spent 10 days visiting family in the small Southern town where I grew up. We celebrated my sister’s birthday, told stories and ate a frightening lot of fried food.

It was hard to say goodbye, to leave my sister in a nursing home, and my blind brother all alone in his apartment. But saying goodbye is often the price we pay for getting to say hello _ for finally being together after too much time apart.

I tried to focus on the laughs we had shared. But I still had to keep wiping my eyes as I packed up to fly home to the place my mother, rest her soul, always called “California of All Places.”

As much as I hated to leave, I wanted to go home to be with my husband and children and grandchildren and to sleep in my own bed. I was exhausted, not from work, but from the adrenaline that had kept me going nonstop for 10 days.

The cottage at the lake where I stayed had a perfectly good bed. But I never sleep well away from home, especially if I have a lot to think about. Do we ever not have a lot to think about?

When it was time to get on the road, I loaded all my stuff in the “economy compact” rental car that I had stood in line forever to rent. (I asked the rental agent why it took so long, and he said, “We’re short-handed ‘cause we can’t get nobody to work.”)

Before leaving my hometown, I said goodbye to the lake and the mountains and the ducks and the mosquitoes and a construction crew that kept hammering away nearby.

I wish you could’ve seen it all.

Then I drove around the lake and turned north to go 90 miles to the airport in Charlotte. I could’ve taken I-85, but chose instead a more scenic route.

Halfway to the airport, I was thinking about my brother and sister, wishing I could do something to make their lives easier, and wondering when, if ever, I would see them again.

It was a question I couldn’t answer. Somehow it reminded me of the words in a card that a friend sent me years ago after my first husband died: “Then, when you think you will never smile again, life comes back.”

Those words are like magic. They always make me smile. I was still smiling when suddenly a warning light lit up on the car’s dashboard. It was yellow, not red, which I took as a good sign. What did it mean? Did the car need to be serviced? Or was the engine about to blow up?

I pulled over to check the owner’s manual, but didn’t find an answer. I tried phoning my husband for advice, but found this part of the “scenic route” had no cell phone service.

Finally, I did what I learned to do as a child when I didn’t know what to do. I prayed: “Please just get me home and let me sleep in my own bed.”

It wasn’t my best prayer, but it came straight from my soul.

Taking a deep breath, I pulled back on the road. Then _ and I am not making this up _ the warning light went off. And it did not come back on.

Let me be clear. I believe all prayers are answered, but not always in the way we hope for.

Seeing that light go off, and stay off, put a smile on my face that lasted all the way to the airport; while I was being patted down by security and running a mile to the gate; and even when the pilot said the fog was so thick in Monterey we might have to divert to San Jose.

When we landed in Monterey, where the fog had lifted and my husband was waiting to take me home, I said another quick prayer: “Thank you.”

Life has lots of warning lights. We all get our share. Some of us get more than others. But things don’t always go from bad to worse. Once in a while, when all seems lost, we get to go home and sleep in our own bed and wake up with a smile.

My brother and sister are going to love that story.


  1. Kate Sciacca says

    “Finally, I did what I learned to do as a child when I didn’t know what to do. I prayed: “Please just get me home and let me sleep in my own bed.”

    I must disagree… that was the perfect prayer.

    I’m currently sitting on a hotel bed in Kingman Arizona, on my way to Albuquerque to visit my sister… so looking forward to that hello! Drove through your old stomping ground… hadn’t been to Henderson/Vegas area in 30+ years… hardly recognized the place.

    Knew you’d have a big lump in your throat saying goodbye… the older we get, the tougher those goodbyes become. Some day there will only be hellos…

  2. Kathy Nida says

    Thanks Jan for sharing
    I really relate to Sharon Randall
    So down to earth and meaningful

  3. These are beautiful thoughts. My sister lives in Texas, which is 1400 miles from us. She has 2 forms of cancer and we usually visit
    twice a year; once in spring; once in autumn. This year we cannot visit as my husband has cancer treatments that won’t end until
    the last week of October. Due to his exposure to Agent Orange, he has many appointments scheduled in November, which
    are difficult to reschedule.

    When I leave her home, we both cry as does my husband. We miss her and have not been able to convince her to live closer
    to us. Very sad; but I am grateful that we have phones and internet and keep in touch. If she needs anything, we are
    able to help her. A visit would be nice; but I am so glad we can help her. Thanks be to God for His blessings.

  4. CHope Hall says

    Dear Sharon, My husband & I have chosen to stay home & not go anywhere. Whine, whine. There are relatives who live far away but we don’t drive that far. My husband has several siblings who live close, but they are all the quiet type & don’t talk. I always enjoy your stories. Keep safe & keep writing.
    As always, your Indiana friend

  5. Love your story or experience. Prayer works. God is amazing & listens to our cries for help. Thankful you had a good visit with family. And, happy you arrived safely with your husband waiting for you. Back to sleeping in your own bed is God’s provision. ❤️

  6. Yuri Balintovich says

    Dear Friend,
    Nothing really to say so I’ll stop here.
    My best to you,
    Your buddy

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