Goodbye, again

So we traveled, my sister and I, to Scotland. We rushed through narrow gorse lined lanes as Miley Cyrus wailed about a wrecking ball, pub hopped in York, and so many, many other things. My children didn’t understand. This wasn’t the exotic land of Florida, but a land so rich with history and meaning (for some of us). I don’t think they felt at once this primal pull that my sister and I feel for England especially, and now the highlands of Scotland too.

We shared a room, she and I. Each claiming our twin beds as we moved in a very delicate and completely remembered dance around endless piles of clothes and suitcases and shoes. I am not equipped to tell you what she means to me or how beloved she is, like the other half of my soul.

You’d like her, seriously.

For me there were many moments, many small and shimmering places, from moss that hung backlit from the trees even as the sun was still setting at 10pm, to the way the waterfall we finally located sounded as we made our way up the dusty track, just down the road from a still and silver loch that we also hadn’t known existed.

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A small loch near where we stayed in Scotland, on the lands of the Chieftan of the Cameron Clan

My favorite though, was sitting astride a padded seat, dressed in what can only be called a survival suit as our small boat sped outward from the coast. The way the light hid behind the clouds over a spit of land that belonged to the MacLeod clan, how clan history was called out to us from the captain of our boat. I remember relaxing into it, thinking, yes. Here. This.

It was the way the salt tasted on my lips, knowing that the unfathomable depth of the sea was just below me, that many of the people I love best in the world were just there, nestled in that boat with me as we gazed at the Inner Hebrides.

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MacCleod Land off the coast of Scotland 

 

And then it was goodbye again. Interminable lines, waiting, last minute changes and long, cramped flights.

This weekend marks the end of my second year at #deaconschool. Bible and Church History = Mischief Managed. We get the month of July off and are back at year three in August.

I’ll tell you though, as hard as the week before the weekend still is, as panicked as I get trying to make sure that everything is just right, that I am PREPARED for any old thing I may have forgotten about – the groceries to be bought and laundry to be done — I wouldn’t trade my community there for all of the chaotic weeks I’ve had over the last two years.

This weekend though, marks not only the end of our second year, but also our first graduation, and the departure of four dear friends. No offense meant to third year or new students, but these four are irreplaceable and it pains me to know that the Midnight Club will never be the same, that Kelly won’t bring her ipad so we can play silly games and make Nancy somersault or Wendy dance.

The necessary intensity of our weekends, so much subject matter and material condensed down into impossibly long days — it has only made the few free hours that we have a time of intense bonding as we come together, all of us finding our way through the very strange and unsettling phenomenon of a call to ordained life. All of us wondering at some point what the plan really is, all of us living through over and over the crushing realization that though there is a plan it will very rarely be what we envisioned for ourselves.

I can hardly hear anyone talk of the graduation without the welling of giant unbidden tears, hardly bear to think of how heart-wrenchingly proud I am to know these people and to call them friends, how SURE I am of their call to proclaim the gospel. So much of these last two years have been a lesson in goodbye, letting go of all the ideas I thought I had, letting go of how I thought this should all work out, letting go of my ideas of what worthy means (as in, who, me?)  as we all struggle to live in obedience.

And if your hours are empty now, who am I to blame? 

And yet another goodbye.

One that has been ongoing, a small rending every day, since Kaia was born 13 years ago. Only when she was in my body could I keep her safe, I have had, every day, to hand her over to the world. To trust that she will be kept safe, that she has a purpose that matches my own selfish desire for a long life for her.

Kaia will fly out Sunday morning with a group from the diocese, all the way to Puerto Plata in the Dominican. She will work there, she will build relationships, she will, I am utterly sure, bring the spirit filled love of Christ that was instilled in her upon her baptism to new friends and communities in ways that only she can, with a huge, huge smile and very kind green eyes.

She just doesn’t seem that far gone from the restless infant I rocked and sang to under a Northern Michigan sky. She seems at times far closer to the goofy tow headed toddler she was, and sometimes she forgets herself and a glimpse of that little imp will peek through at me. My mother says that her children are her very heart outside of her body, and so maybe it makes sense then, the breathtaking array of possibility. The frailty of a car hurtling toward the airport, the gravity defying ride in a tin can to another country.

But it is another small goodbye in a month filled with them; Scotland and England and our family and friends there, Kaia’s trip, school and graduations.

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Photo of Kaia in a train depot at the Highland Folk Museum

Faith has been broken, tears must be cried. But let’s do some living, after we die. 

I’m sure most folks know, but we had just one more goodbye to contend with. As I opened our garage door coming home from Kaia’s last Lacrosse game our little ginger cat {named Sunny Bright Lights by an enthusiastic little girl) ran as he always would when the door started to open. But this time he ran in front of a car and was struck, and was killed.

I waffle between tending a grave and telling myself that he isn’t there. Between thinking about how he hated to be out in the rain that fell on that first night in his grave, and telling myself that its only his body there now, it isn’t HIM. It’s all fine and good to be resurrection people on Easter, to believe that death was undone and hell overcome by what it could not see — all fine to believe that hell grasped a corpse and met GOD – until there is a small orange tabby cat corpse wrapped in a bath towel and under a new mound of beach grass. Until the corpse is one of yours, and not some mystical idea of a Christ who a lot of the time feels pretty unknowable to me, who seems like someone who wants to play hide and seek when all I want to do is get a coffee and talk.

Because I just have so many questions.

I prayed for that little cat, sang the commendation (Kontakion) to him, tried to imagine him crossing that Rainbow Bridge, but that’s the thing with cats, they aren’t pack animals. Try as I might I couldn’t imagine Sunny crossing this bridge and all of the other cats leaping for joy.  They are just contrary enough.

So what I hoped instead was for a bed that looked like mine, just in another room. With that same shaft of sunlight that burns up the grass in the late afternoon of summer. I hoped for a wind chime with a perfect middle C, just like mine. For the sounds of a family in the next room, the smells of food cooking and the lake. I think what I was hoping is that he would know somehow, wherever it is that cats go when they die, how very much he was loved. And then I sat myself down like I have been trained to do and wrote this:

I am a spider in my grief

made mean and selfish, wallowing weaving and spinning a dewy web

hoarding jealously each tear to spin into fine filament

Like glass

His scull sounded like glass when 

it shattered

Give rest, o Christ. 

And Peace.

 

It seems there is a season for everything. (Gasp! The Bible is true!)

And May was a season of goodbye. A season of learning that I cannot hold on as tightly as I may want to, a time of learning that I must let go.

And so, world, I commend my daughter to you, I am unleashing her upon you – warrior child, fierce and passionate and strong. Tall and blonde and so pretty. Very kind, and smart and fabulously emotional. Handle her with care, if you would, I cannot hold her anymore, have not really held her since that cold night in May 13 years ago.

 

So many of you are pieces of my heart. A giant stained glass window that sometimes lets the glory light shine through. I realize now its been shuttered, protected and hiding again.

I love you all.

Still.

Childhood living, its easy to do. The things that you wanted, I bought them for you. 

Graceless lady, you know who I am. You know I can’t let you slip through my hands… I know I’ve dreamed you a sin and a lie. I have my freedom, but I don’t have much time. 

Wild horses, couldn’t drag me away. 

 

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Sunny Bright Lights, may he rest in peace. 

 

 

 

 

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