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Mom, even though I told you–screamed it, actually–that I’d never be back, that you’d never see your son again, I suspect you always harbored the hope. This was the moment it came true. I don’t know who took this picture–there was quite a crowd and it could have been any one of them–but I’m glad they did.

What I remember of that instant was the absolute silence that fell over the room. On the other side of the door, as I paused on the front steps taking a final deep breath, I could hear the laughter and gaiety, but when I turned the knob I walked into a vacuum.

I’ll bet when you pictured it, if you ever allowed yourself, you never thought it would be on a Christmas morning. I should thank you that even in the midst of your shock you didn’t launch into a spiel about the Prodigal Son. That would have surely sent me away again.

I’m actually surprised you even recognized me when I walked in because I must have looked like hell. In many ways, years had not been kind.

Some day I will tell you what I did while I was gone, what I was looking for and never found; who I thought I was, but discovered I wasn’t; what I was sure I’d never miss, only to realize I did.

Those things and many others I want to tell you but it will take time to find the words.

Story by Will Conway

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