Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro’ the house,
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The beds were all empty, being slept in by none
The homes sitting silent, because we had run
The first plane had started, taking off in the sky
Leaving our hearts behind, as we waved goodbye
We don’t know when, or how long it’ll take
Before we can return, our lives remake
Tears falling, Looking out the plane window,
Torn from our normal, our lives now in limbo.
How do you say goodbye to your home, your ministry and above all the people that you love where your heart lies? How do you look into their faces, knowing that this could be the last time you say goodbye? How do you deal with the guilt, the raw utter guilt, of leaving them behind to face it alone? The disappointment of putting your life, your ministry, on hold because you have to flee from something unseen that kills, tears at your heart. Who will we come home to dead that we knew? Why do we get to escape and they have to stay to face what we don’t? How will we cope, living in limbo in another country, in a home that isn’t ours; our hearts back here in Nyankunde?
You wander your home, down the hallway, looking around at the pictures on your walls, wondering how long it will take to return. You don’t know what to do, where to even start, when you have to pack up your life for an unknown period of time. You don’t know when you’ll be back, as you stumble through the motions of pulling down suitcase after suitcase, trying to fill them with the essentials of your life that you need to take with you; so you can just survive through this unknown period of time. Your heart is tender and hurting, while you try to control the emotions flooding over you, but your kid is insecure; he knows something big is going on, and he needs reassurance.
‘Merry Christmas’ wasn’t on your mind, not really, even as you read the Christmas story in the morning, opening gifts and being together. More like the phrase ‘Is this really Christmas?’ Or ‘Is this really happening?’ Still questions flood your mind. What have we forgotten to prepare and take care of? Should I bother to take down all of the decorations now? You walk through your yard, wondering what will be left of the plants and animals, you spent so long investing in; the garden’s first produce resting in your hands, even as you prepare to clean out your fridge from the food there.
You stand out on the airstrip as the first plane starts up; the first family starting the wave of emotional departures as you wave at them, knowing you will soon follow them. Soon, the roots you put down that were a good thing, are going to be ripped up temporarily. You’re going to return some day, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hurt. You stare down at the bags you’re packing wondering, what am I leaving behind that we are going to need? What is life, a country over, going to bring? How am I going to cope, living in transition? You slowly zip up the bag, swallowing with the emotion, as you close up a piece of your life to bring with you; knowing that you are leaving the rest behind. And then you turn to once again, look around your home, feeling lost.
What to take? What to leave?
How to say goodbye? How to grieve?
I’m at a loss for words, the pain cutting deep
“Remember Christ, you’re still his sheep”