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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