A couple of years ago I found myself longing for “home.” Although I’ve lived in my current town for a combined total of 15 years, I needed connection to the area where I was raised. It had been a tumultuous few years, and I felt this sense of longing for the familiarity of my childhood.
I had just come through a long, difficult journey of taking care of my ill parents and ultimately burying them. My mom was diagnosed with Stage IV kidney cancer, only to die 6 weeks later. My dad was already very sick with kidney disease and on dialysis. We spent the next 14 months working with him, making sure he had what he needed. He tried to do well, but his grief and pain was so extensive that it caused a lot of hurtful words and feelings. When he died it was a sense of grief and relief. We were so sad to see him go, but so relieved that he was no longer in such pain, both emotionally and physically.
So eight months after his passing, I was left with this longing for the home I once knew. This wasn’t necessarily my actual house, but the place that shaped me. Sydney had a few days off school in October, so I decided we would travel to the Oklahoma Panhandle, where I spent my first 18 years.
We spent the night with the parents of my longest friend. It was so lovely to be in their home again, remembering so many moments I had been there in the past. We visited another longtime friend of my family’s, as well as my kindergarten teacher. It was all so wonderful and brought a sense of home back to my heart. We drove by my childhood home, as well. It was a whirlwind 24 hours, but I was so grateful that I went.
The thing that really tugged at my heart was such an unexpected stop in our trip. It was a grain elevator in the town I called home. The population is probably less than 200, and it’s not much to see. However, there was a grain elevator that became quite popular. It was very old – built in 1929, but was officially condemned as it started to lean. It would even shift with the direction of the wind.
Since we were there, I wanted to see the grain elevator. I didn’t know how long it would be there, and I wanted to get a glimpse. It was across the street from a hardware store, which the owner still opens twice a day for coffee and sodas, or basically to chat with other community members. Everything in his store was exactly the same. It was as if I had stepped into a time machine. When I told him who I was, he remembered me. My grandma lived in that community for many years, and I spent countless days at her house and riding my bike to the hardware store for a soda in a glass bottle. It was the stuff of which nostalgic movies are made.
We then stepped outside to look at the grain elevator. The rain had just subsided, and the sky was beautiful. The Oklahoma Panhandle hosts some of the most magnificent skies, by the way. The grain elevator was more amazing in person, as I could hear all the creaking and moaning as it kept its balance to stay upright, despite its huge leaning. The way it stood just awed me. It really said a lot about where I grew up and the people who made me. I felt blessed to have called this tiny town and community home.
It truly spoke to my heart in a strong way. We may go through mighty storms and winds, but God holds us up. With God by our sides, we may lean or sway, but we don’t fall. We may endure what we feel are the worst of times, but those times will strengthen us to endure. Others may just be watching and waiting for us to fall and crumble. We may be forever changed, but we still stand. The outside may look damaged, but our core and our faith keep us from completely toppling over.
I know it was just a grain elevator, but in that moment, it was what I needed to start my grief journey from years of hardship and grief. The road “home” truly led to healing.
I’m so glad I went to that little spot in the middle of the Oklahoma Panhandle when I did. The grain elevator was later burned down and demolished because of safety concerns. That happens in life, as well. Sometimes there are things that were once beneficial to us that we need to put behind us. What was once helpful can become harmful. So that leaning grain elevator in a town nearly forgotten by most continues to teach me.