Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Goodbyes and Hellos

I knew that it was time to walk away. The moment I turned my mind toward leaving, it was as if a big cement block was removed from my shoulders. I physically felt some sort of strange freedom.

But I do hate goodbyes. I had several good friends, and knew it would be hard. But I wouldn’t cry. I knew it. My missionary friends from the next city down were sad, just as I was to be leaving them. But we always knew it wouldn’t be for the long term. They had seen my through some hard times, heavy laden, and dark. And we had enjoyed many times of fellowship together. As we drove down the road for the last time, my friend noted the mood simply with “this sucks”. When he stopped and stepped out to get gas, I was left only with Kindle, one fittingly named for the fire and warmth she provides. She has been a  bright spot of laughter and joy that I had the privilege of walking these roads with. We often found ourselves reveling in giddy drunkenness, brought merely from the intoxicating humors of life. She only said, “I don’t do goodbyes well, you already know I’ll miss you. Lets keep it at that”. I replied, “You already know how much you mean to me”. That was it. Short, sweet, the way I like it.

But then came Anna. I knew she could bring me to tears in a moment. She worked in my house 2 half days per week. Plucking chickens and grinding flour, and other such things that I wouldn’t ever get time to do without her. But it wasn’t like she really worked for me. When we were together, we just fooled around, laughed, cooked, ate. Life was brighter on her days. Literally, she always opened the curtains. But more than that, she left my heart more alive. She was the only Cameroonian who really knew me inside. She didn’t require cultural sensitivity, or a fake smile, or a special greeting. I’d smack her on the butt as I left for the hospital, retreating quickly before she had the chance to swat me back. She was the closest thing I had to family during that time and in that place. “Bye ma”, I’d laugh as I fled. She would smile, “bye daughter”. I stopped to pray for her just before I put my bags on my shoulder. She just stood there. And I knew that this would be the one time for me, the first time in many, many hard months, that the tears would flow. She grabbed me and just held on. Her sobs heaved into my chest as she said, “I’ll never see you again”. I felt the weight of her soul leaning into me. I could only hold her, and tell her the best of truths. I would see her again, if only on the other side. And it would be wonderful. I spoke of the thing that I knew for sure, and whispered instruction “Love the Lord with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength – in this He will be pleased”. I told her that I loved her. She finally let go and lifted her head from my chest. I put my bags on, and she watched as I walked away to the road.

My current season is full of comings and goings. “Hello” and “goodbye”. I am thankful for those who have passed through life, stayed a while, had a seat. We’ve shared joys and pain. Let’s not forget those who have made our paths brighter, those who have provided shelter in the storms. And let’s not forget to do the same for others who walk along through our lives. 

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