I am on the plane right now, somewhere high above my lives and my loves. It has been a full, rich week of hanging out with my dad and sisters and a few friends thrown in…even a chance to have lunch with family friends from Sanda who were visiting nearby. I cannot swallow fully when I think about how hard it is to say goodbye to each sister, and my Dad, each last time. We never really know when the next time will be, so we milk the moments as we can.
With my dad, this visit seemed to be filled with everyday sorts of things — like him sharing odd tidbits about the origin of the name of a street (most likely, he thinks, named after the doctor who led one of the Delanco tent meetings in the nearby town – my Dad sang in a choir with his daughter); or telling me about the flower bed he plans to make using the dried seeds from two rare varieties he finally has growing out in the back. We visited a retirement community where he and his wife Mickey are hoping to get into this fall. He is worried that his sometimes-memory struggles will keep him from getting in; I look at him and hope I have half his memory at the age of 85. I am sure that for however long he is able to live there he will bring more life and love and cheer to that place than he will be given back.
My three sisters and I spent the first day and a half of my time on retreat – catching up, window-shopping, sharing about our lives and our families over leisurely meals. Several times we teared up; our evening walk around a pond ended with all four of us on the ground in stitches, unable to stand. A nearby six year-old wandered over to ask us what was so funny – there were no words but we asked him to take our picture with my iphone and he then felt a part of things.
Near the end of the week I met a high school friend, Pam, at Starbucks. We had helped each other through different honors classes – and both ended up studying literature post high school because of the influence of a few amazing teachers. We lost track of each other during college, so when we met at the newish Starbucks in our old town it had been 32 years! So much to hear of each other’s lives; so amazing to experience the richness of friendship.
Part of my solitary airplane time I have spent combing through and deleting too-many photos on my laptop and iphone. I refuse to write the number of photos on my computer – it is simply unimaginable. It’s only been eight days but I have felt such a longing to be with my children and husband again! I cannot wait to see them and hear about their weeks and share the caramels and mint nonpareils and orzo that I am bringing back. I want to hear about each of Eric’s days and be able to carry his joys and frustrations again.
And I think how planes and callings separate us from people who we love so much that it tears our heart to be separated so far. Sisters should be together much more often. I long for continued daily visits with my Dad, and wish that my growing children could just hang out with him. I want my little nephew Jackson to choose to come and snuggle in my bed when he wakes up in the early morning… but he doesn’t see me enough to do that.
Photos and memories will help. So will Skype and email and messaging. Amy Carmichael wrote about separation from loved ones — that it is the wounded hands of Jesus that hold us each when we are far apart. I choose to believe that – it is the only thing that makes these partings bearable.