I'm not an optimist. I'm a prisoner of hope.
- Desmond Tutu
There are a few things in life that just leave you breathless, in that sort of stunned-silence kind of way.
The Grand Canyon is one of those places. You can’t really grasp its enormous beauty by looking at a photo. Even picturing it in your mind doesn’t compare to actually being there.
Gettysburg is another one. It grabs you and won’t let you go. Wandering through the acres and acres of famed battlefield, remembering the sacrifices of the soldiers there, you can’t help but be humbled and a little speechless.
Last week, I had a personal experience of this when I visited my grandfather’s gravesite in a small town in the rural countryside of eastern Georgia. He’s buried there in a Baptist church cemetery alongside his two sisters and my great-grandparents. I’ve visited there only once before, in 1976, when I was 10 and had little interest in gravesites. Now, 36 years later, I made it back, feeling mystified by this place I know so little about and this man I never met.
I’ve moved around a fair bit in my life, and sometimes it’s been hard to feel rooted and to know where I’m from. The realization that this church, this small town, nestled in the red earth of Georgia, is one of the places I’m from left me speechless. It seemed peaceful, but also as if I was discovering a place that was a part of me but I never experienced firsthand. So here it is. Home—at least for ancestors to whom I owe my own living and breathing.
The inscription on the tombstone reads, “All things work together for those who love God” (Romans 8:28). It feels so vast, pregnant with hopes, dreams and wonders. And that day in the churchyard, it felt like home.