Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Far, Far Away

[what's brewing: wanting a "to-go" cup for home]

When we first moved here, the distance between my family back "home" and us felt enormous. As we’ve become more comfortable with maintaining family relationships from what feels like a world away, the distance seems to have shrunk steadily over time. Suddenly, through the events of these past few weeks, I feel so far, far away from home once again.

After several years of struggling, a marriage in my extended family had begun to disintegrate. The whole family had been coming together to support, encourage and pray for them. The situation seemed to fluctuate daily and no one was sure what would happen. My family was faithfully calling to keep us updated. I exchanged several personal emails trying to express my concern and support as this couple went through this difficult time. I was longing to be nearby, to be able to talk face to face. Even though I was informed about the crisis, I still felt so far removed from my loved ones. No amount of information could recover the thousands of miles between us. Not that I would have been able to do or say anything to change the outcome of the situation, but when I heard that the wife had decided to leave, I felt helpless and useless being this far away.

My heart is right there with them, but my physical body is stuck here and somehow this whole experience is just different because of that.

Although no one in my family was able to say goodbye before she left, somehow I feel robbed of my chance to say goodbye to a good friend because I’m so far away. How strange to realize that she won’t be there when we go back to visit. Every loss brings about its own form of grief, and I’m grieving this loss in a place that seems so far removed from the impact and reality of her departure. It is sometimes hard to believe it’s really happening because my life here is so separated from the happenings of these last weeks, but at the same time I have felt incapable of carrying on with my responsibilities here because my thoughts are so consumed with questions and details about the situation. It is difficult to concentrate on teaching a lesson at church when all I really want to talk about is what’s happening in my family.

As I’ve been thinking about all of this lately, I pulled up an article, Long-Distance Grieving--the Unexpected Sacrifice , that was published in the Women of the Harvest magazine in 2004. I found this line particularly interesting: “It’s funny, but being absent in times of loss is not one of the typical missionary sacrifices that people think about.” I never thought about it in that way – it is a sacrifice that inevitably comes with life on the field. I was so grateful for this author’s perspective – what a blessing to glean from the women who’ve gone ahead of me in this journey. What about you, my readers? How have you dealt with this unexpected sacrifice of being absent during difficult times?

6 comments:

stephanie garcia said...

I experienced so many of the same feelings when my cousin's wife, along with her sister, was tragically killed by a drunk driver. Not being there to say goodbye, I know that when furlough rolls around I will be expecting to see her in the midst of family events and she won't be there. It is a difficult reality! I wrote about our experience here:

http://garcias2chile.blogspot.com/2008/03/when-tragedy-strikes.html

Deborah said...

I had a similar experience when my sister's husband committed suicide during our first time. At the time, we were in a difficult place as far as communication so unlike you I was out of the loop and not getting any information. They had separated and things were not amicable to say the least. Drinking was involved and so it was just a receipe for disaster.

The hardest part, is that because of my not being there it has truly impacted the relationship that I have with my sister. We've never recovered (and she's never recovered) and it has been over 8 years ago.

I keep trying to bridge the gap, she keeps the distance and in the process I feel that I've also lost contact with my neice. My sister has also maintained the gap with my parents (they live far apart as well) and so she is unaware of some serious health issues with my dad.

We've also had several extended family members (aunts & uncles) that have passed away during our years here. It's always hard to realize they are no longer part of family life....and the lack of a chance to grieve or say goodbye tends to make the return home have moments of acute pain, when you realize a fresh the family member is gone.

But the Lord is faithful and He soothes the ache. When others on the field loose someone from home or has family issues, then it can be a time to share grief with someone else that understands what it is like to be so far from home and hurting.

After many years, you begin to understand that those at home also feel a sort of grief at our absence. At times we aren't there when needed the most, which can accentuate their grief and distress. It is a tender spot only the Holy Spirit can soothe. And I know that for our parents' generation, it is a hurt that usually remains unspoken.

Thanks for sharing this post. I'll pray for your family.
Blessings,

SE Asia Nancy said...

SE Asia Nancy said,

I experienced the loss of both of my parents while overseas. It was not as much their deaths, since they were older and not in good health, but the fact that I could not grieve TOGETHER with my siblings. I didn't realize how important that was until later, particularly when my brother sent a cassette tape of my Dad's service and I sobbed when I heard the sharing of different family members.

What I am learning is that God uses all our experiences to make us better caregivers to others as they may experience similar things. I have found that true with my daughter-in-law as she now shares (short-term) overseas experiences with me through letters.

Ellie said...

It is the way it is, and it is one of those things we live with that we just give to God. I missed the death of a few relatives, close ones. You never get that time to grieve with others. And then when you go home, the grief is new to you and to others it is not. Or there are times that I thought that it feels like this they did not die, only moved away and we have not both been home at the same time... in reality, that is not too far off... but it is hard. And unfixable... but God knows this, and I go sit with Him. He is always in my now, and always ready to sit and grieve with me when I am.

Trinie up North said...

I too have experienced this. My youngest daughter is having a tough time in her marriage. This isn't a new happening, it has been going on for awhile. It is tough to try and talk to her over the phone because she hides her feelings very well. But if I were to see her face to face, I would know the hurt that she feels. I hurt for her and try to talk her through but ... well she always was our headstrong one.

We are also dealing with elder parent issues on my husbands side. How do you tell your Father that he needs to sell the home and move into town so Mother can be taken care off. She has Alzheimer's and needs care. He can't cope with it all. He thinks that everyone is blaming him for everything. Does anyone have any suggestions?

Brenda

Becky Aguirre said...

This last year while on 'home assignment' (we don't call it 'furlough' any more...) I took a class offered at our church called "Interrupted Expectations" and it was such a help in knowing how to deal with missionary life. It was basically a grief class on how to deal with the losses in life, taken from a book written by H. Norman Wright. This class helped me understand how to even recognize losses in my life and how to grieve them...such as how I 'lost' the opportunity to have relationships with extended family growing up since my family was overseas (I am not bitter about this at all! but it is a 'loss' in a sense). I really enjoyed this post, as it kind of runs along those lines and brought it more into focus for me.

One of the times that really hit me hard was on 9/11...we were in Mexico at the time and were in utter shock about the whole thing just like everyone else! My first instinct was to rush home to my family and my people to grieve together with them and it was very, very hard for me to not be in the U.S. Then there were rumors that the U.S. border was going to close and that really felt very threatening. It made me realize how much of my identity was wrapped up in being an American and feeling more 'safe' in my home country than in my country of ministry! I realized that a commitment to ministry overseas also meant a commitment to basing my identity on Christ and serving Him no matter where I was or what the situation...

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