46 days ago I started a countdown.
50 days to go.
At the time I wondered if I were perhaps making things more difficult, keeping the count in front of me. Wouldn’t that stress me out? Make me (more) melancholy?
There was probably some bit of wisdom in those concerns, but I went ahead anyway – even going so far as to write the numeric countdown on every page of my calendar.
The cumulative effect has been (nearly) fifty days of unusual awareness. The daily countdown has forced me to assess where and how and with whom I will invest the hours. It has (ironically) slowed me down a bit and given me a measuring stick to take stock of how my preparations have gone.
At another pivotal moment of my life I vividly remember telling Mom through tears, “This feels like death.” I’ve thought quite a bit about that phrase over the past weeks. What I meant then, and feel somewhat now, is that one of the necessities of change is the leaving behind of that which is familiar, and often, incredibly dear. And that loss is hard.
In the past, I have tried to ignore massive changes ahead, choosing to wait to deal with rioting emotions in the moment as action occurred. Often we have no choice but to live this way as some of life’s biggest changes come surprisingly bursting onto the scene. And typically, that’s how I roll – but not this time.
This time I chose the long goodbye.
I don’t particularly like it – counting down the days – but it has been achingly sweet. It has helped me be intentional with things like dinner dates and phone dates and coffee dates and staying up late to feel my new nephew’s fluttering kick in his mother’s belly. Choosing a long goodbye has meant a lot more tears (pretty much every day, at the end of the day, like clockwork) and taking time to really feel the ache of leaving. It has meant taking time to say the things I wanted to say, to my students, to my siblings, to my friends, and reading the same book over and over and over to eager little niblings. It’s given me time to think and pray and meditate on the sweetness of God’s faithfulness, shown now, in my past and with certain hope, my future.
And I’ve been surprised. Because as much as the ache is deep and the desire to wrap my arms around babies and never let go is breaking my heart, this time it doesn’t feel so much like death. The grief and loss are real, but almost fifty days has given me time to realize the joy and gain that are real in this transition too.
Will there be more tears ahead? I wouldn’t bet against it. And hard(er) days? Those inevitably come as well. But there is life in this long goodbye and I am grateful for the gift.
3 – Sunday.
2 – Monday.
1 – Tuesday.
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ~ Lamentations 3:22-23