last day with Hannah
Last week we said more goodbyes. We were in Minnesota once more, celebrating Christmas with Eli's family. We had said goodbye to extended family before we left in October, so last week we chose to solely see immediate family, plus Josh and Jamie (Eli's cousin/best friend and his wife who happened to be one of my roommates before I got married, and they are some of our best friends in the world). We had a fabulous week, hanging around the house and watching the kids play and eating lots of cookies and opening presents. Then it was time to say goodbye, and it was hard. The kids are all young and only the oldest (at age 4.5) had the slightest understanding that they wouldn't see each other for over two years. They'll all be completely different people in two years than they are now. They probably won't recognize each other next time and will have to start over with getting to know each other. There's no doubt they'll pick up where they left off and still love chasing each other around the house, but it's hard to think that two years will happen in between now and then, which is half their lifetime (or most of their lifetime, in the case of the babies!). So it was hard to say goodbye. Our sister-in-law said it well: "It's hardest when you know how long it will be before you see each other again." Which is true. And in the grand scheme of things, two years is only two years. But it's still a significant amount of time, particularly when kids are in the picture, and it will only be the beginning of many years of separation for us since our plan is to keep returning to Africa again and again.
Saying goodbye to Josh and Jamie was also hard for two particular reasons: 1) our kids didn't get to see each other to say goodbye, and 2) Jamie is due to have their fourth baby in just a few weeks, and we won't get to meet him before we go. We had planned to eat dinner with them on our last night in Minnesota so the kids could play and say goodbyes, but that afternoon one of their kids became sick and threw up so we nixed our dinner plans in favor of not exposing our kids (especially the baby) to the flu. These things happen, especially at this time of year, but it was a major blow because having dinner was supposed to be our goodbye. And so I cried. Thankfully Eli and I were able to go over later, after our kids were in bed at Grandma's house, so we had the chance to hang out and laugh with them once more before leaving. It was much needed and we're so thankful for these friends who have loved and supported us on our entire ten-year journey to Africa.
with Josh and Jamie
I don't write this to play the martyr and evoke pity for all the hard goodbyes we're having to say. I write this because it's true that it's hard, and it's a part of our story these days, and because a part of us is actually thankful for the chance to say goodbye because it means we have the chance to go. And that is what makes our hearts glad: we get to go. Jesus said, "Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life" (Matthew 19:29). I once heard that this is true because people who serve as missionaries will increase their family and friends on the mission field by forming new relationships and investing in the global Church. Because we're going to Africa, we will have the joy and privilege of "receiving a hundred times as much" in terms of relationships built and formed. But it requires leaving family and friends behind. The thing is, though, we're not the only ones embarking on a separation. The family and friends we're leaving behind - they're letting us go. After we say goodbye, we'll get to say hello to new people on the other side of the ocean. They, on the other hand, will just be saying goodbye. And that is hard. In many ways it's even harder than what we're doing. So we acknowledge the other end of the spectrum in this "saying goodbye" business, and we want to say, "Thank you for letting us go."