For weeks I fought to hold the tears back. I started saying, “see ya later” instead of “bye” because it was easier and seemed less permanent. I shed a couple tears at my ordination service and a few more while leading worship at LJPC one last time. The flood gates opened briefly the saturday before our departure when I realized I didn’t say bye to my grandma with Alzheimer’s (my dad tried to comfort me, saying she wouldn’t know anyway but it didn’t matter-the tears still stung). To be honest I was surprised I was able to hold them back as well as I did through all of the goodbyes. And then Sunday night came.
It really started after dinner, when my other grandmother told my uncle she was ready to go home. Hailey and I helped her to my uncle’s car. She made jokes that she would probably die before we got back, but she’s been saying things like that for the last ten years and she’s almost 94 now. We hugged her, helped her into her seat and, as she looked up at me, the reality that I may be starring into the eyes of the matriarch of my family for the last time hit me. I lost it. As grandma and Uncle Dave drove off, two of my best friends arrived with their 8 month old daughter. I sat with Brady in the garage and tried to compose myself before going back to everyone inside, but couldn’t and he held me in his arms as I balled on his shoulder. Fortunately his adorable daughter cheered me up enough to go back in-thanks Atley. The hiatus from tears was short. It was time for my nieces, sister and brother-in-law to leave. I was doing okay till Becca (3 years old) jumped in my arms, squeezed tight and made a fish face–the same face I make every time I kiss her. She kissed me, I balled. Even as I write, in an airplane somewhere over the middle of the US, I can’t think about it without getting teary eyed. I’ve been close to them since the day they were born. Even though they are not my own children, I love them as much as a person can love another. Being away from them for this long may be the hardest part of this Malawi adventure.
I was exhausted by the time Hailey’s brother, parents and the rest of our friends left. More tears were shed, but it was mostly hugs and smiles. We finished packing and finally fell asleep only to be awoken a few hours later by our morning alarm. My parents dropped us off at the airport. More tears. It’s a hard thing to shed tears of sadness in the midst of such an amazing opportunity. I know I am not the one in control and that we will be taken care of, but leaving the people we love has never been harder.