I woke up this morning with a familiar ache spreading across my face. Ah yes, I thought. Of course. From time to time this memory of old tears comes back to remind me that I'm grieving, even when I think I'm doing rather a good job of pretending I'm not. It is hard not to marvel at how my body tells me what my mind is blocking and I know from experience that this is not a reminder to ignore. Perhaps you think that this is too personal to share with the world, but if you are really interested in what it means to be a missionary then talking about loss is essential.
One of my very best friends left Ukarumpa today and she is not coming back. Before she left, I considered publishing a blank blog. I thought the white space might serve well as a picture of how I feel - empty, unable to find the right words, but also hopeful for possibilities to fill and find. Yet today, having stood in drizzle and watched the plane taking them away disappear, I find that in place of the blankness I thought I would encounter, there is instead a surge of something else. As we said our goodbyes I felt my body literally convulse. Frankly, it was not very British. I barely held it together. It was overwhelming, intense, physical.
Before she left, my friend instructed me not to turn to chocolate and I will obey. So what now? What do I DO? I remember when my brother died, that I turned to a friend and asked her to tell me the procedure. I wanted to know how grief worked and what to expect. In this case, my friend has not died - God willing, I will see her again. But I know enough about different types of losses, to know that the days ahead will be unpredictable and there is no point trying to pretend otherwise. There is no procedure and everywhere there are reminders. My plan is to feel what I feel and try not to be too hard on myself, or those around me - we are all navigating our way though the same sea after all.
Do you know what the best thing is though? As I watched her walk away my arm was linked through the arm of another beloved friend. As I felt the physical wrench of separation, I felt the joy of connection at the same time. How's that for God providing in every moment and in every way?
So...for all the world to read: Kate, you are wonderful. You have lovingly encouraged me through my early days as a missionary and a mother. I will miss you dreadfully, and will pray for you every day as you walk through your new beginnings and beyond.