“The melancholy river bears us on. When the moon comes through the trailing willow boughs, I see your face, I hear your voice and the bird singing as we pass the osier bed. What are you whispering? Sorrow, sorrow. Joy, joy. Woven together, like reeds in moonlight.” ~ Virginia WoolfIn the quiet stillness of the nights, or in the midst of a crowd, I've recently found my thoughts dabbling in swirls of melancholy. Oh, there's no need for the butterfly nets or the oft-recited platitudes — I'm still, at the root, a happy person. I'm still happy, but I'm also . . . sad.
The summer was one of loss.
My best friend's mother died in July, and I even now tear up at the flood of memories from fourteen years of having my life touched by hers. How does one even begin to say goodbye . . . from across the world? It was an anticipated pain, for she had been gravely ill for quite some time, but no matter how prepared I thought I was . . . I wasn't. I wasn't at all. It seems so silly to me that Lorie's death should entangle itself so with the selling of my parents' house in August, the house I spent half of my life in . . . but it did. It was as though in one summer two ties were severed, forever. Lorie's death was even more than that, though — it was a gunshot that hit just over my shoulder, missing me by such a small distance that I felt its sting as it rushed past. My mother is sick, too. I worry so much about her . . . and there's absolutely nothing I can do about the time bomb living inside of her. She can say she's well, she can come all the way here to visit, as she did in June . . . but she's still sick, and I'm still afraid. I can pray and I can praise God for the little things . . . but my mother is still sick. She who seemed invincible to me once . . . is not.
I was blessed last year with two very special, lovely friends whom I immediately felt at home with (kindred spirits, if you will). Through difficult times last year, they were there. When I yearned for deep conversation, beyond what generally can be found, they were there. We could discuss philosophy, novels, theology . . . for all of it, they were there. And then, in June . . . they weren't. One went back to America, another on to a different city here in China. In mere weeks, two of the people here who made it most a home were suddenly gone.
My dearest friend here, my 姐姐 who has led me more than any other individual to love China and to have a heart for Chinese people, was so overjoyed to at last be expecting a baby. She had struggled and hurt from an empty womb for so long. I rejoiced with her, because no one could possibly be a more loving mother than she. And then, just as suddenly as God had given . . . He took away. I know in my heart, as deeply as I know anything, that He loves us all and means all things for good. I know that someday something beautiful will bloom in the empty place. But at the moment, I ache so much for her. I selfishly miss seeing her each day, and that special way she has of blessing people just by a word.
For I am a stranger with thee, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were. O spare me a little, that I may recover my strength, before I go hence, and be no more seen. ~ Psalm 39:12b-13