We’d been friends for a lifetime, it seemed. And although our friendship definitely wasn’t ending, it hurt my heart that we wouldn’t be growing old with these people. We would never be working alongside them again, raising our kids together, crying, laughing, eating, praying together. At least not physically, anyway. I found myself on the greeting card aisle.
What do you say to the people who are leaving? To the people that you feel like you grew up with? To the people that you’ve spent hours, days, weeks, months and years with? Singing with them. Learning from them. Vacationing with them. Growing with them. We had babies and they were there to greet them at birth. They had babies and we were there to greet them, too.
We. Loved. These. People.
And so there just wasn’t (isn’t) a card that existed to express all of that and so much more. Because as much as I knew my heart would miss them, the other half was elated and overwhelmed with thankfulness that they were going to get to go and minister to a nation whose prediction is extinction if something doesn’t change soon.
Swaziland needed them more than I did. And they were obedient to the call. I am pretty sure they felt there was no time to waste.
The Sunday came when we said our good-byes and I had thought that I would be the composed, wise, and mature 35-year-old woman who simply hugged them, said a few brave, noble, and inspiring words, and with only a small tear in her eye, sent some of her best friends off to fight in a foreign land, half-way across the world from me, to save the lives of little boys and girls like the one in the photo above.
I walked up to my friend Dezra, who glowed, and whose shimmering blonde hair had never been cooler since I’d known her and we both burst into tears like two blubbering high school girls. I rambled something about how pretty she was and how I loved her so much and how I really was happy for her and how I was so sorry that I was unable to control my tears because I thought that I had been more okay with this and that I really was but it was just that I didn’t expect this flood of emotion to hit so hard and blah blah blah blah. I think she said something similar back. I walked away sad.
We wouldn’t ever go to the cloth diaper store again together. Or close down the local Starbucks again. I would never get to laugh at her dancing again. And only someday, when she’s back in the U.S. for a visit, we’ll hang out at a restaurant, but we won’t be chasing babies out from under the tables. Because it will be years from now.
The other day she mentioned how long she’d been gone. It struck me as odd that she felt like she’d been in Swaziland for a while, when to me, she’d only just left. So I thought about it. And I realized that in the month she’s been gone, I’ve been carrying on my normal, daily routine, experiencing daily life as I am accustomed to. But for her…..she’s been through a literal rite of passage, a tour of the world with four children in tow, moved into a new home with only the bare essentials to set up house. She’s ordered new furniture and appliances, attended a bajillion church services in a foreign language, witnessed orphaned children digging her scraps from the garbage, and so much more. That’s a lot of living in just a month.
She writes a great blog at The Good Life, and although many of her posts just make me laugh, some of them make me cry. I can let her go. Because it’s okay. She’s there and I’m here, but the funny thing is, we’ve never been closer. At least to me, it seems. Sure, I miss her, but it’s all good. Because when I think about those orphans….and the hospitals filled with people dying of AIDS….and the people lost without Jesus….. It puts it all back into perspective.
I love this family. You’ll be hearing more about them, I can promise you that.