a reflection on leaving & staying

The house has taken on a silence since they left.
A silence both strange in it's eerie echoes and wonderfully familiar.

At some point in your twenties you will be forced to realize that your parents home is no longer your home. I have known this, myself, for a long time now, but it was during this most recent visit, when our house swelled and stretched, filled to the brim with people and laughter and laundry, that I began to understand more fully this parallel truth: that my home is no longer my parent's home. 

People frequently ask me when they will return from Uganda. And I have always responded that, well, there really is no way to know. Perhaps they will move back when grandchildren are born or when their youngest leaves for college and their nest is empty. But the truth is, for them, it will not be coming back so much as it will also be leavingIt will be leaving their home all over again for something strangely foreign. 

Family is a draw, certainly. But as I watched them interact and live their lives in accordance with ours, these last three months, I could, at times, sense the weight of missing Uganda drag their spirits away from me and Zack. I know that feeling of isolation and loneliness and as much as I wished that I could, somehow, ease their inner struggles, I also know that this--this dissection of lives and loves--is exactly what we signed up for when we moved away in the first place, nearly ten years ago. From the beginning, every missionary understands, at least in theory if not in practice, that this is part of the call: distance and longing and that unpleasant task of repeatedly saying goodbye.  

The truth is, for all the unpleasantness, I could not be prouder of my parents. For their faith and their bravery and their courage in repeatedly placing such distance between the work they love and the people they love, but must leave behind. 

They left yesterday, to hugs and kisses and whispered I-Love-You's. And when they had gone, Zack and I settled into the eerie quiet of the home once more wholly ours, trying to recall what "normal" used to be. 

There was a time when to be a missionary, you said goodbye once, because it was goodbye forever.
"We will see you next summer," we all promised, as the car pulled out of the driveway and drove away. And really, is that not the easiest missionary goodbye that ever there was?


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