My mom got to go home to Denmark for the first time in years. This visit came at a good time because her sister has been having a lot of health problems lately, and it’s been weighing heavily on her. It’s always hard to hear that someone you love is sick, especially when you can’t possibly understand what they’re going through, especially when it’s a battle they have to fight on their own, especially when it’s your sister.
My mom and I have this in common. My little sister Megan has a thyroid disease, which flared up dangerously my freshman year of college. Used to being the oldest child– all powerful and always in-the-know– it was hard for me to be so far away while she was getting treated. And it was hard to come home during breaks with Megan a different weight every time, never on the same medicine, maybe sleeping the whole time, maybe in a bad mood. She is much better now, handling her health problems with grace and strength, but still. It weighs on you.
Of course, my mom knows we share this connection, so she said: “I know you know how this feels, but it’s so hard to have a healthy body and watch your sister have so many health problems. You wonder what, if anything, you can do to help. And you wonder ‘Why not me?’ It’s so much harder when she’s so far away.”
And soon my mom and I will have this in common, too. Megan is graduating high school in a few months. Her dream is to go to medical school in New York and stay there. And she’s about to make it come true. And while I’m so immensely proud of her and grateful that she’s healthy enough to see this dream come to fruition, I have to be honest and say that I push down so much anxiety and sadness whenever I think about it. Can our family suffer any more separation?
And then I feel guilty, because I’m typing this in Nashville. I left. How come she doesn’t get to? How come I get to write a sad guilt-trip blog post? That’s not fair to Megan. I got a novelty experience while my family had to deal with a gaping hole in its structure. But I now see the consequences of my gaping hole, and I so deeply fear the one she’s about to make. I couldn’t have learned the importance of home without leaving it first. I hope she’ll see that, too.
But maybe she won’t. If I know nothing else, I know this: there is something in my blood that made me leave home. Megan has the itch. My mom followed her dream, my dad left Puerto Rico with his mom. My family is scattered around the world: divorced and thrown into the wind, following dreams and thriving wildly. But God we miss each other. Constantly. That hunger for family is never satisfied. You can see it in the way we interact with each other on social media. We’re like monsters, gobbling up every scrap of information, liking every picture, commenting on every status. While I am thankful daily for texting and social media and FaceTime, none of those things compare to the comfort of being together, riding in the car together, telling stories at the dinner table, watching movies on the couch with a bowl of ice cream, dancing around the kitchen at Thanksgiving.
So, family, I know you’re reading this, and I want to know if it was worth it. Are you glad you left? Do you miss home, wherever that may be? How do you deal with homesickness? How often do you think about your sister across the ocean? Your godmother who’s having yet another surgery? The cousins that you were raised with and now rarely see? Have we made a mistake by pulling ourselves so far apart? Or are we just some of the bravest people in the world, never sitting still, always changing and taking risks?
I miss you guys always. You are on my mind, no matter how far apart we are. I am proud to belong to you and carry you in my heart.