there and back again. . .
This week I made a whirlwind trip back to the US for my grandmother’s memorial service. . .it was a joy and a juxtaposition, merging two worlds quickly as I went there and back again in less than six days. As I tried to straddle both worlds at once, I realized how much of a paradox my life has become. . .I moved in and out of conversations about sorrow and joy, need and provision, youth and age, definition of life in hardship and plenty.
My sisters and I drove the six hours to Orlando for the funeral from Atlanta. I found myself a little carsick from the speed, and buoyed by the company, chicken minis, and coffee. We talked about where our lives are compared to where we thought we were going. Of struggles with faith and fear, with busyness and balance. We talked of how our relationships with each other and church and family had shaped who we are, looked – with the lens of our thirties – on high school and our childhood. We puzzled about how we were working to feel comfortable in our own skin. We all have children that are growing quickly, careers that we love, and homes that we have built. These homes in many ways look very different in size and shape and composition, but also the same in the core of expectation and love.
When we arrived at my aunt’s home, we were swept into a time warp with cousins and relatives we hadn’t seen in a decade, and I flitted from one hug to another, one 15 minute conversation to the next – trying to look deep, and see beyond the Facebook posts into the heart and struggle of each person. Some finding first jobs, others falling in love, many with new tiny babies of their own. Building lives on the foundation my grandma and grandpa had set for us years and years ago.
As we all stood to talk about grandma, son-in-laws broke down in tears that mingled goodbyes with gratitude, grandchildren stood to speak of a life lived in quiet service, easy laughter, and searching faith in the face of struggle. She had taught us the value of doing – of a full table, an enthusiastic greeting, hard work, and simple conversation. She had shown us these building blocks could change a generation. All 40 people in the room had watched her love her husband well, care for a bustling household, encourage with nods and smiles when words were inadequate. Her life was not extraordinary by a biographers standpoint, but as we looked around the room, we all marveled at how a faithful living of day to day in love and persistence and honest struggle could act as an anchor in so many lives.
We celebrated and we wept, because she loved us, and she loved Jesus with all that she had. . .After she had a massive stroke two years ago, she woke up in the hospital and told her children. . .”oh, but I had hoped He was calling me home. . .I guess there is still more He has for me here.” She asked her son for reassurance she had done enough the day before she died, and he reminded her, “mom, we have never done enough – but, Jesus, He has done everything for us.” And she smiled.
In the next couple days, I dove into beautiful hours with just my three sisters – laughing, celebrating our differences and the strengths that bind us together, and then I started the journey homeward. Roots watered in the bonds of family that has known me since before I had words to speak.
I almost missed my flight to Europe (and then to Kenya) with some unavoidable delays, and as I sat waiting for the the wonderful Delta agents to figure out another flight, tears fell softly down my cheeks. Perhaps, they were tears of exhaustion, but they were more than that. I was grateful – to fly across the world and fall into arms that loved me unconditionally, to see the hearts that had indelibly shaped who I am – and then, to be flying back again with anticipation to another home that I was aching to return to after just a few short days away. To the life we have in Kijabe. To my girls, and my husband, to my friends, and the medicine. And I collapsed into my plane seat as I sped toward Kenya.
This life we have – it is a simple life marked by daily work and open doors, of introspection and expectation – a life of ordinary days marked by extraordinary love.