Today we began the first of three days’ journey to return to Japan.
With the help of my sister Allison and our friend Arlene, two vans got our family of six and ten pieces of luggage to the Philadelphia Airport. We flew to Phoenix and then transferred, arriving in LAX around 6:30 pm. Eric had rented a VERY large van to hold all of us and our luggage for the next 24 hours. We will be here in LA until we fly out at midnight tomorrow night to Seoul, then on to Japan, arriving in Sendai on Friday afternoon (Japan time).
Southwest Airlines requires that even children carry their own boarding passes to get onto the planes. Of course I waited until the very last minute to put each ticket into each respective happy hand. Our four kids suddenly felt very adult being able to carry their own pass to the gate!
Before leaving this morning, Olivia and I drove over to see my Dad one more time. We had had a sweet dinner last night with him and his wife Mickey; this morning was just a short visit to say goodbye. He was having a physical therapy treatment at the time; sadly these last two days his dementia has seemed more pronounced. He knew who I was; but this morning at least didn’t seem aware of the dread that he and I both usually feel at saying goodbyes when we are returning to Japan. Maybe that was good.
As we turned to walk out of their retirement community, I had to wonder what it will be like the next time I return. Short of a true miracle, I know that next time I see my father he will likely not be in this same facility; he will probably be less lucid. He will probably be even less able to get around. I do not know for sure if he will live until my next visit (we never know this, do we?). Sweet Olivia ran back in to give him one more hug. I held my breath and looked away because I did not want to cry at that time. I desperately wanted to know when I will be home next and what it will be like; and yet I just as desperately did not really want to know.
One of the most significant events of this summer was a short visit that I had several weeks ago with dear friends in the Washington DC area. Their family had been close to ours when we were young; our parents had attended college together and then both couples had become missionaries in different countries in Africa. I happened to live near them after college when I moved to Virginia. It was during that time that the husband Ray contracted ALS Disease. My parents made numerous visits to help out and visit; my Dad conducted his funeral several years later. I still remember my dad sharing the story there of Ray laying on his bed, unable to talk, and spelling out the verse from Job, ‘though he slay me, yet will I trust Him.”
During our visit with a mutual friend several weeks ago, we found out that his youngest daughter, L., was now virtually paralyzed by the same terrible disease. Eric and I knew that we needed to visit. I was so thankful that her mom. answered my call and invited me to come by on our way out of town.
Eric ending up taking the kids driving somewhere while I visited. L.’s eyes lit up when she saw me walk in and she had a huge smile- that made me so happy. She cannot speak; she has a ventilator, feeding tube and trache. She can only move her eyes – blinking yes and no. And she can smile.
My time with her was so precious. While I sat with them, her mom reminded us both of some childhood and other memories. And then she reminded me of something I forgot – I had taken L. to the Billy Graham crusade in Washington DC back in the mid 80s – I can’t believe it. (I have a bad memory). She was about five years younger – maybe a high schooler at the time.
I asked her if L. has faith. She said her family hadn’t talk about faith things a lot, but recently they had discussed it. and she answered that L. does have faith, but that she is afraid to die. This is when Lisa’s tears started. So I addressed that, and talked about the Presence of Jesus – how he is with us now, how when we each die the reality is that He is all we will have. I won’t be with my husband or kids at my own death – only Jesus himself – but that Jesus is enough. And He will accompany her thru death into new life, and give her a brand new body – and she will meet her dad with a brand new body. And Jesus will be here with her mom as well, helping her cope without Lisa. I recited Psalm 23- what wonderful promises are in this psalm! – and I prayed with her, laying my hands on her that she would be touched and filled with the Presence of the Holy Spirit. I asked if she could feel Jesus in her body and she blinked yes. We both cried and cried some more. I felt the anointing of Jesus on the timing of this.
There is a story that I love from Corrie Ten Boom’s the Hiding Place:
Father sat down on the edge of the narrow bed. “Corrie,” he began gently, “when you and I go to Amsterdam-when do I give you your ticket?”
I sniffed a few times, considering this.
“Why, just before we get on the train.”
“Exactly. And our wise Father in heaven knows when we’re going to need things, too. Don’t run out ahead of Him, Corrie. When the time comes that some of us will have to die, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need-just in time.”
Tonight, as I sit in this hotel room with my feet straddling two worlds, anxious unknowns, summer memories, and future questions whirling in my mind, I picture the confident little hands of my almost-five year old as he marched next to me with his boarding pass waving in the air. And I know that I, too, can trust my Jesus to give me – and each of us — at just the right time! — the boarding pass that we need for each new passage.