Monday, September 3, 2012

A Study in Melancholy

“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 Woolf
In 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

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"Passage—immediate passage! the blood burns in my veins! Away, O soul! hoist instantly the anchor!
Cut the hawsers—haul out—shake out every sail!
Have we not stood here like trees in the ground long enough?
Have we not grovell’d here long enough, eating and drinking like mere brutes?
Have we not darken’d and dazed ourselves with books long enough?

Sail forth! steer for the deep waters only!
Reckless, O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me;
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go, And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.

O my brave soul!
O farther, farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! Are they not all the seas of God?
O farther, farther, farther sail!"

~Walt Whitman, "Passage to India"