Monday, May 25, 2009

right now tcks around the world are saying goodbye

The talk of goodbyes is everywhere.

My sister is leaving the country that parents work in overseas... for good. They're saying goodbye.

I still know a lot of the kids that are at the school I grew up in in Papua, Indonesia. Some of them are like my own sisters. They are also facing goodbye.

(My sister Joy and Zoe, about 10 years ago? Both graduating this week.)

and... my dear sisters Joy and Michelle now, so grown up:

Funny. What they're actually facing is graduation, but when your LIFE has been wrapped up in a place that you will now leave and never come back to, the greater event is the goodbye.

There's a sense of frenetic activity in the last weeks of a tck's life overseas - cramming in activities, knowing you will never have another chance to do it. Romance blooms because of the intensity of the emotions and again, the knowledge that this is the last chance. There's a sense of impending pain - tears come easily.

Facebook shows statuses and comments like these:
"It's the final countdown!!!!"
"The beginning of the end"
"I refuse to pack"
"the pain of leaving is physical"
"I'm throwing away my heart and my history"
"please please don't say it's the last 6 days"

For them, this week is filled with ceremonies and celebrations. Finished finals, parties, graduations. In Papua they'll stay up all night and watch sunrises together, like we did. Couples will spend every extra minute together. They'll go to the beach, drive around the city, talk for hours. And then, for several mornings in a row, the entire community will gather at the airport before the morning flight out. There will be a poignant, communal grief. Some will avoid it, others will embrace it. Many, many will cry. When I did it, we had to literally be pulled onto the airplane and out of the arms of our friends. You'll watch your home disappear under the clouds. And then... after you land on the other side of the world, you begin the process of adjusting and figuring out how to live and laugh and dream in a new place, which for me was much easier than leaving.

I always feel it this time of year - sympathy pain in my heart. 8 years ago when I did this goodbye, it was the hardest thing I had ever done, and that remains true. I wish I could stop it or help them avoid it, but there's really nothing any of us can do but walk right through it.
These are from my last few months, 8 years ago:
(my graduating class, on our senior trip in Australia):

Baccalaureate, 2001.

One last get-together at my house with my family and some class members who called themselves a part of it (and were gladly welcomed!):

And, 8 years later, the seniors of 2009 at the same school, in their final week

The one thing I DO say to those facing goodbye that while they do have to leave, it's not the end of those friendships. Among my class and my friends, we all continue to get together regularly in various groups and at various events in random places around the country and world. They are still like my family. So yes - it is goodbye, and it is the end of life as you know it, but those friendships are most certainly not over.

My precious classmates from Papua, together at Jared's wedding a couple of years ago.

And, in three weeks, I'll pick up my sister from the airport, let her come home and sleep off jet lag and grief, treat her to some good sister time, shop for American clothes, and have some American fast food. I just want her to know that it's gonna be okay.


Melissa said...

the school i used to go to in Japan is closing a week and a half early because of swine flu cases in Japan. i was glad to hear that the school is keeping the regular timetable of year end activities even though students won't be on campus in class anymore.

when i left, it was the end of 9th grade and there were maybe 1 or 2 other students that were leaving. all the other students were staying, so there were no real good-bye rituals for me. and then when i got to the US there was no one that really understood the transition, not even my family. your sisters are very blessed to have you and isaac!

Ake said...

I hate hate hate hate hate this for them and I wish I could take it away for your sisters and for zoe. For me, it's not ok, it's still not ok, even though I've found more than I thought possible over here. So sad.