• ashirk@gmail.com
  • Kijabe, Kenya

on family crossing oceans . . .

I like to pretend the ocean is not small – that the plane flight between me and my family doesn’t carry significant sacrifice. But, I know that it does. .  .that I have missed moments with my sisters, with my parents, with my nieces and nephews that I would not have missed if we lived on the other side of the ocean. We do our best when we come back for home assignment, but the 2 to 3 to 4 days is always a glimpse that leaves me feeling like I have only seen dimly into a beautiful picture. . .

Which is why Ashley and Jeremy and Emma and Chris’s visit to Kijabe was such a gift. Emma was born 6 months before we moved to Kenya and Christ a couple years after. . . and as Ashley and I talked, we realized how much our 6 year age gap made a difference in how we knew each other growing up. She was 8 when I started my busy high school years – and when I came back to North Carolina, she saw David more than me as I studied and survived medical school and then moved away for residency. 

            As we looked at baby lions and watched galloping giraffes, as they marvelled at monkeys out the window and washed hundreds of dishes with us, as we hiked up and down the valley and through the fairy woods, I loved seeing our life through their eyes. Even more so, though, I loved getting to know this incredible family that I love so deeply – to have time for more than an intentional but limited catch up – to watch and cuddle and play and laugh and live together – to share coffee and mukimo and chapati. To be.

            We talked about easy things and hard things, about what is next and what was, about what we know and what we struggle to understand. Ashley and Emma hid hundreds of tiny ducks all over our house which we are still finding and giggling about. (I will never forget the wonder on Belle’s face when she found the first one before we knew where they were coming from. . .)  Christmas morning we opened presents and stockings, ate cinnamon rolls and drank orange juice, and I stayed in my pajamas until well after noon. We finished an impossible puzzle together as a team, and hiked to hidden waterfalls. Their last day, we squeezed in every last memory we could – baby rhinos and baby elephants, fancy food and outdoor playgrounds, beads and bowling, and final hugs goodbye as they headed to the airport and we waved them out of the parking lot.

            Sometimes, this life gives the gift of an extended breath, of being seen and loved in intentional ways, of chances to reconnect and build bizarrely beautiful core memories. It allows deepen the most formative relationships, and for this, as we close 2023 and begin 2024, I am grateful.