But they didn't all come home at once.
Mormon son #1 and his family arrived first, via airline and with no unexpected interruptions to itinerary. Mormon son #2 had to work up until the day before Christmas Eve, so sent his family ahead on the plane to spend a week with our daughter-in-law's family and then meet up halfway with Mormon son #3 and wife, who drove them the rest of the way to our home. Mormon son #4 and his wife drove up a day earlier than expected, trying to get ahead of a predicted winter storm. Mormon daughter and husband couldn't get away ahead of above-mentioned storm, so they braved travel in the midst of it (not as bad as expected). Mormon son #5, still a teenager, was already home.
When son #2 got to the airport in his distant city, ready to join the extended family who were now all gathered at the ancestral home, he discovered his flight was delayed, which caused him to miss a vital connection, which resulted in being stuck at another airport because all flights were cancelled by a storm which really was as bad as expected, which netted a night on the floor of the airport and jockeying for one of the few remaining seats on the last available flight and a last-minute homecoming on Christmas Eve.
But, eventually and joyfully we were all reunited for a wonderful Mormon Christmas together.
As Mormon Papa and I welcomed each and every child home, some at expected times, others earlier than planned and one at repeatedly delayed times, it occurred to me that this might in some tiny way be like the homecoming we will all experience one day to the Great Ancestral Home, our Eternal Father's home.
Some of us will arrive Home after traveling the route pretty much as planned from the beginning and without major incident: happy childhood, pleasant and rewarding family life, death at right about the average mortality rate. Others will arrive after extended delay--perhaps life will stretch on what seems to us much too long. Some of our Eternal Father's children may come home earlier than expected: sometimes the good really do die young. And then there are God's children who take twists and turns throughout life that they never expected, never wanted, but which surprising paths have to be navigated anyway.
Regardless the timing or tracking, we will eventually gather, each of us, one by one to our Heavenly Father's realm. Undoubtedly there will be anxious anticipation as those who arrive first wait and count and welcome with hugs of love and joy every returning family member, each in his own time.
And the greatest joy of all will be knowing that we expended our greatest efforts to ensure that each of God's children for whom we bear responsibility arrived safely, faith in God and valiancy through life intact.
In the words of the beautiful Mormon hymn,
"Oh, what songs of the heart we shall sing all the day,
When again we assemble at home,
When we meet ne'er to part with the blest o'er the way,
There no more from our loved ones to roam!
Tho our rapture and bliss there's no song can express,
We will shout, we will sing o'er and o'er,
As we greet with a kiss, and with joy we caress
All our loved ones that passed on before.
Oh, what songs we'll employ! Oh, what welcome we'll hear!
While our transports of love are complete,
As the heart swells with joy in embraces most dear
When our heavenly parents we meet!"
--Joseph L. Townsend