Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Saying Goodbye

The drive from Dubuque, Iowa to Decorah, Iowa was rainy and seemed to take forever.  I drove my electric blue/purple Neon with my not-quite-two-year-old daughter, Phoebe, in the back seat.  My husband drove his blue Subaru with our dog Boris in the back seat.  We had been on the road two full days, driving from our former home south of Albany, New York.  And this day, the third day, technically the shortest driving day of them all, seemed the longest.

We were leaving everything and everyone we knew back in New York to move to a town we hoped would be a welcoming place to raise a family.  We also hoped that the tales of the long, cold, snowy winters were slightly exaggerated.  We were right about the first part.  Decorah was a welcoming place to raise a family, but let's just say we didn't escape the cold and the snow while living there.  Snow from November (if you're lucky) to April (if you're really lucky) and mornings with temps that hovered at 40 below.  That's without windchill.  Of course at that point who cares about windchill? 

Now we've moved again.  As I write this my children are in various stages of grief over the move.  I understand.  I've grieved with every move I've made -- leaving Nashville, leaving Richmond, leaving Maryland, leaving New York and now leaving Iowa.

I know that the grief is necessary.  We have to go through it.  We think our hearts will break with the weight of it.  As I told a friend, it's like the game, "Going On a Bear Hunt," that I used to love playing as a kid.  Grief is something you can't go over.  You can't go around it.  You can't go under it.  You have to go through it.

We're grieving because we're looking back.  When the moving truck had finally taken every piece of furniture and various and sundry stuff, our house was so empty it echoed.  But just because the stuff is gone doesn't mean that the memories are.

When we finally got to the house that rainy fall day, Phoebe and Boris ran joyfully back and forth across the the length of the living room, relieved at being out of the car.  A little less than a year later, we brought our new baby Zach home from the hospital.  We set up tents in the living room for winter "camping" and had picnics on the back porch.  We celebrated birthdays, argued over how big the Christmas tree really needed to be, argued a little more when the too big tree fell during the night, hosted sleepovers and curled up in front of the wood stove on snowy days.

We've mourned the loss of family pets.  Our beloved Boris died two years ago and we held a memorial service for him, Fiona the ferret and Nolan the hamster in the backyard, complete with a 21 Nerf gun salute.  And we've mourned the loss of loved ones, family, friends and parishioners.

It's hard for all of us not to look back and wonder if we've done the right thing leaving our home, the only one that Phoebe and Zach have ever known.  But I also know that we have so much to look forward to.  As I said in my sermon this past Sunday, my family has one foot in the past, one foot in the future, and the present is surrounded by boxes.  Our new house is more like a vacation spot for cardboard right now than a home.  

But hard-won experience has taught me that we will, eventually, get settled.  Our world, so chaotic and unsettled right now, will fall back into place -- a different place, a new place, but a place nonetheless.  We'll make new friends and new memories.  Life, wonderfully, inexorably, unceasingly, goes on.

Our house in Decorah, Iowa

1 comment:

  1. Hugs. I am so thankful for you and even though you've moved, you will bless other people by your presence and bring them comfort when needed and joy with your friendship. Lots and lots of love, Shelley :)