Going Back Home

Thomas Wolfe 1937 4

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Asheville native Thomas Wolfe once wrote that you can’t go home again. I have wondered about that phrase. After all, one can almost always go home again unless there are extraordinary circumstances that prevent that from happening. But, after this past weekend I think I have a better grasp on what he meant.

My wife and I have different hometowns and at this time in our lives we live in hers, having lived in my hometown of Eden,NC  on two separate occasions.

For many reasons, some valid and some  not , we have not been to Eden  in over 20 years. As is often the case we returned under difficult circumstances; the  sudden death of a relative. One of my sisters lost her husband quite suddenly last Wednesday and were drawn home again, at least it was home in my case.

I  have tried to put the trip into some type of perspective, knowing all the while that the trip was not about me, but rather being there for my sister. My wife and I talked   a bit about going back as we traveled, particularly as we  drew closer. The main artery for us is NC Hwy 14 into town and  I was predictably astounded at what I observed. There were businesses galore that we did not know,and could scarcely believe that were there. They had a Cookout, for goodness sake. Old businesses were gone, others inexplicably remained. The hospital ( Morehead Memorial) seemed to be stretching its tentacles everywhere as if it were the only game in town and maybe it is.

Going down main street, Washington,was, as in most small towns sorta sad.  Alas,vacancies seemed to outnumber stores. But, even more surreal was arriving at my home church, Bethel Baptist. The church sanctuary was the venue for the receiving line prior to the funeral. This was a place where I had not set foot since probably 1970. Really, really strange.

Predictably, I  did   not know most of those paying their respects, but every now and then, a familiar face emerged and once again the past became the present and quite nicely I might add.

The service itself was not really a funeral but more of a celebration of what had transpired in my brother in laws life and really my sister’s as well. She was that crucial figure, largely unseen that made a lot of what he did possible. There was as much laughter as tears, largely due to the common bond of Christian faith shared by the members of my family.

The church’s pastor, Darrell Boles, was one whom I knew by word due to my sisters and their spouses, two of whom faithfully attend. I was so very pleased to met him and get to know him for myself. From this point of view he is the right man in   the right place at the right time. I would be remiss if I did not mention  the caring  but professional job done by Fair Funeral Home under the direction of Neil Fair.

So, we went “home” again and I think I learned once again that it’s not so much the  place but those people who are there and were once there that really provide that  unique aura that is no where else.

To all who were there,



February 21, 2011 - Posted by | Family, Life and Death | , , , , , , , , ,


  1. speaking is one of those sisters who still lives in this area and has witnessed so much of the rising and falling of various things in our county and the fair city of Eden. Small towns have so much to offer, if one knows where to look. The funeral was truly a celebration of KPs life and was at times so sad and yet so happy. We truly feel blessed to have our preacher, so much a part of our lives and our church. Once again, we are a small church – no mega church with so many people attending that we have to have more than one service. But there is so much love and caring in our little church. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. And speaking once again as one of those sisters, it was a joy and blessing to have you here. I pray it won’t be 20 more years before you come back and may it be under happier circumstances. love and safety to you and yours

    Comment by pshope | February 21, 2011 | Reply

  2. Enjoyed reading the article. Did not realize it had been 20 years since you had visited Eden. My comments are much the same as sis pshope. Love my church family and our Pastor , Darrell Boles. The members and Pastor have been very supportive and loving to me since my KP passed away. It was also a thrill and blessing to have you and sister-in-law with us.

    Comment by J Patterson | February 22, 2011 | Reply

    • Thanks to you both for sharing. I wanted to do justice to the day if I could for there certainly were some moments of celebration amidst the sorrow.

      Comment by tarheeltalker | February 25, 2011 | Reply

  3. I’ve always thought that maybe Mr. Wolfe meant that you can never return home and have it be the same “home” as it was when you left. It certainly isn’t, but sometimes that is ok too! I prayed for you & Aunt La in your travels and you have my condolences to your sister. Praying for her & the family. I’m so thankful he was a Christian and that it is a celebration as well.

    Comment by Ashlea Davis | February 25, 2011 | Reply

    • You are quite right that it was not the same. Thanks much for your thoughts & prayers.

      Comment by tarheeltalker | February 25, 2011 | Reply

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