Walking through the grocery store just 3 days before Debbi was leaving for Wheaton College, I instinctively grab a large bag of oatmeal. That’s Debbi’s staple breakfast food, and it is almost finished at home. Then it strikes me. Only 3 more days. Only 2 more breakfasts. Who will eat oatmeal when she’s gone? (No one!) O my, this is a crisis.
I put the oats in my cart anyway. Then stop. Then put them back on the shelf. Then take them back. Then stare at them – What should I do? The voice of reason comes shouting, “Don’t waste 400 shillings on a new bag of oatmeal. No one will eat it.” Another voice counters, “Just buy them. Debbi always likes to have the oatmeal jar full.” My eyes fill with tears. I bravely walk away from the bag of oats, and continue shopping. But I have lost it. So now I’m walking around NakuMatt with tears streaming down my face (of course wiped off often enough so that most people wouldn’t notice) . . . when least expected.
Debbi and I both prided ourselves in going through her high school Mother-Daughter ceremony with completely dry eyes. Most other moms struggled desperately to get through the send-off speeches. For me, no problem. Even at the Wheaton “Letting Go” service, the final event for parents at Freshman orientation, other parents were giving testimonies with a lot of tears, barely able to talk. I remained composed and stoic. Even a bit judgmental: “Oh, these people are just too emotional. After all, they just live a few hours / few miles away…”
I expect that when we leave Debbi here at Wheaton tomorrow, I’ll be fine. But I also know myself well enough to know that on the airplane back to Kenya, somewhere 33,000 feet above Greenland or the Atlantic Ocean, I will crack. It is good that there are two 8-hour flights; it usually takes that long or longer to stop sobbing and get sober again.
It was like that when we left Michael at Hesston 9 years ago. It happened when my mother passed away. Despite composure at the actual event, it does come crashing down at some point, most often in the solitude and darkness of BA 065 Detroit – London or London – Nairobi. It happens just due to the trauma of being bi-cultural, and of going back and forth between worlds and selves. It happens because of the dichotomy, the good-byes, the identity challenge.
So for now, all is well. The orientation days at Wheaton have been great. This is definitely a caring, supportive, understanding community.We agree that Debbi is at the the right place; this is God’s will for her.
“When least expected” might still be out there. But nothing takes God by surprise. He is Good. He is ever Faithful.
From my Bible reading today: “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. (I Peter 1:6-7)