Because airport goodbyes are the stuff of life

A week ago we find ourselves at O. R. Tambo International Airport for a goodbye we’re dreading.

Our friends – Marc and Rebecca, and their kids – are leaving for the States and trusting God for the details.

I’m in favour of the drop-and-go. I don’t like drawn-out schmaltz and lingering looks and last touch. I would rather wave and walk away flippant. Pretend like we’ll meet for coffee next week and the kids will play and we’ll have dinner in a month and see them at the next birthday party.

We go anyway.

The airport is frenetic with the mess and jostle of announcements and human throng and soaring escalators and flickering screens and the click-clack of flight attendant heels. We find Marc and Rebecca in the Emirates queue. Other friends and family are there, too, sad and strained and finding ways to laugh practical like stacking bags and zooming kids on trolleys.

The check-in takes time.

We chat like this is all normal. They’re in cope-and-go mode. We’re in this-can’t-be-real mode.

Finally there are boarding passes. We move into let’s-get-this-over-with mode and we’re the first to hug and go. I cry. Rebecca cries. Murray says, ‘Dude…’ Marc says. ‘Love you guys.’ Abigail lifts Scott clean off his feet and hugs him big-sisterly.

We’re in separate cars because Murray has come straight from an optom congress. He takes the boys and I drive home alone. The sky is blown wide and pink with vast smudges of winter sunset across highways and dry veld. There are vast smudges on my cheeks, too, but I think how ruined mascara is worth it because there are only a few fistfuls of people you really get to do life with. And the effort and vulnerability it costs to treasure and honour people, this is the stuff of life. (Tweet that?)

I think, too, that this is following God: making sure footprints wherever God has our feet – in the red dust of Africa or elsewhere. And this is Kingdom living: scattered planet-wide and close as prayer.

. . .

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5 comments

  1. Dalene, you captured it so beautifully. Two weeks ago we put our daughter on an airplane to work in Mauritius for a year. We also did the make-silly-jokes dance, when I just wanted to sit her down and pour all the life advice I could muster into her. Everything from don’t talk to strangers to how to know he’s mr right.
    So grateful for technology that allows us to stay in touch, well, without touching.

    Like

  2. Dalene, you captured it so beautifully. Two weeks ago we put our daughter on an airplane to work in Mauritius for a year. We also did the make-silly-jokes dance, when I just wanted to sit her down and pour all the life advice I could muster into her. Everything from don’t talk to strangers to how to know he’s Mr Right.
    So grateful for technology that allows us to stay in touch, well, without touching.

    Like

  3. This captures so poignantly what I feel every time I wave Kim and our brother,sister, nieces and nephews goodbye. I want to say Eina as it fits this feeling so exactly. . Those return trips with make-up streaming down my face and the ‘tjanking ‘ when I am alone has been captured so perfectly in this post. Reminds me of CS Lewis on love :To love at all is to be vulnerable. “Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal” but I would choose the love every time x x

    Like

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