Going Home Again

Dreher reflects on his sister’s fight with cancer and his return to his hometown:

Cancer makes a mockery of the idea that we can stand on our own two feet. When we are rendered helpless by disease and mortality, we have nothing but our faith, our friends, and, above all, our family to carry us. What if I woke up one morning, as Ruthie had done, to learn from my doctor that I had incurable cancer? Who would care for me and my family? Yes, we had friends in Philadelphia, but we had not lived there long enough—had not lived anywhere long enough—to develop the kinds of relationships that Ruthie had back home. …

We expected our Philadelphia friends, neighbors, and colleagues to be sorry that we were leaving, and they were. What we didn’t expect was folks telling us how much they wished they had a place like St. Francisville to go to. One friend confessed that his parents had raised him to put professional success ahead of everything else in life and to always move for better jobs. And he had. Now that he and his wife were older and their children were gone, they had no real community in which to grow old. They were rich, successful—and alone.