I certainly haven't yet gone through anything quite as traumatic as losing my immediate family––let alone a spouse or child––or having my home destroyed, but there are certainly moments when something causes me to snap back to times in my life that I remember being happier or more content but that I know, no matter what I do, I can never return to. Relationships end. People die. Groups split. We can look back at them, but we can only move forward.
Watching the film this gloomy Saturday afternoon, it hit me harder than it ever has before.
It wasn't until this evening when I was looking through some pictures of friends from the past couple years that it occurred to me why. I'm right now on the edge of closing a chapter of my life. In just a few weeks I'll be leaving my home, my friends and my country for a very long time. It's what I want to do––what I have to do, really––and I'm more excited about it than I've been about anything in a long time. But today I realized it may be more bittersweet than I imagined.
The home I'm living in is the home I grew up in––and it almost certainly won't be mine to return to when I get back. My family is at a time of transition. One generation taking the place of another, and I'd be a fool to think it will be the same when I get back. While the last two years have been painful in many ways, the friends I have right now are the best I've ever had by far. We'll still be friends (I hope) whenever I return, but chances are it won't be the same. People move––very quickly around here––and while I will see them all individually again, the memories we made as a whole group will be just that: memories.
So, this is all not to say I expect to be stumbling down bullet scarred alleyways in Beirut while having hallucinations of striding through the green fields of Coryland toward a home I can never return to. Just that there's some sadness in a parting I'd not expected. And while watching a Ridley Scott film this afternoon, I realized that.
The other thing that struck me in the movie as it always has was what a beautiful imagining of heaven those scenes of Maximus walking home are. I know it's not written from a theistic, let alone Christian perspective, but let's just say that if it ends up looking like that––which I (and I think C.S. Lewis, heretic that he was) tend to believe it will––then I will be a very happy man. It means all those moments of wistful longing for people and places we can never return to are really hopeful instead of sad.
And what could be more beautiful than that?