I'm solemn today. This week I got my parent's last newsletter. It marks the end of almost 25 years working as missionaries overseas. I wasn't even school-aged when we left the US.
There have been endings before. They left Indonesia, where I grew up, a year after I graduated from high school. We kids have never really known what's around the next bend, and how long they'll really live any place. That's still sort of true, but I still got all teary when I read the letter, just like I got all teary last Fall when I was at their last presentation to their main supporting church in Kansas. 25 years! Such investment in people and projects and ministry in Indonesia and South Asia. To me it isn't words, it's faces and stories.
And.... it's a change. My dad is looking for a job for the next stage of life, and so it turns out almost our entire family is facing transition at the same time, from various corners of the US of A.
I can't put my finger on why I get emotional about it.
I suppose when you've invested so much time and work and love into something, moving on and marking that transition is a massive, emotional thing. And I suppose that while the true transition is for my parents, I was a part of years of their work overseas.
And I suppose it's odd to receive that newsletter as I wonder if next week we'll be writing up our own, announcing our plans. Is their ending going to be our beginning?
And I suppose.... I suppose that when I think of them being here, in the US, accessible, I ache to have Judah with them, knowing and seeing them weekly, bonding as we can't when we're far away. Knowing that they're coming back just as we're leaving....
What will it be like to see them root deeply in the US, to spend their older years fully engaged in the American culture? These are things that my siblings and I have talked about for years already, because when you think of your family as being cross-cultural, it's hard to figure out what to think of them now that they're .... just here.
For my sisters who were just overseas with them in the last couple of years, it's the grief of seeing the ending of their world overseas. And it's keenly aching for a broken country that only needs more people to love it, as my parents and other people move away.
And for my dad, after years of doing one thing in one world, coming back to start anew in a culture whose first question is "What do you do?", there are questions of vocation and value.
When my parents saw the emotional reaction from at least three of their girls over their newsletter, they called a family skype chat. It was beautiful. Through the skype static you could hear Judah whining in the background and random strangers in an Argo tea shop in Chicago, and the voices of the family, from Arkansas, Dallas, Chicago, and Colorado.There were a lot of shaky voices as we all talked about how we're feeling. I think we've all seen more traumatic moments in the process, but this is just another step in the journey of transitions and, for some of us, loss.
Transitions and loss.
We third-culture kids and and families do it all the time, but I don't know if we're very good at it.
I guess the very fact that we can get of skype and talk about it with shaky voices shows that we're willing to walk and talk through it together, and that is what makes it possible, though never easy.