It's late May. Aboard the AFRICA MERCY, that means the season of farewells. To places but more importantly, to friends.
Almost two years ago, we arrived in Texas, knowing no one in our Gateway course. Within 6 weeks, we had become a close knit support group for each other. Within 3 months, we had our ship family. We have shared two Christmases, Easters and field services. Countless conversations. Too many dining room meals. Prayed for and with each other. Comforted each other. So many hugs and tears.
And now we are here - at the end of this stage and contemplating the next. But this is a painful place to be. It hurts when your friends go because when you share your lives as deeply as we do onboard, you cannot help but give away little pieces of your heart. And a little hole is left - a little vacuum - where your friend use to reside. It doesn't hurt as much if you keep your friends at arms distance. But if you open your heart to be loved, you open your heart to be hurt as well. Though this is the good hurt - it tells you that you are capable of love and being loved in return. I have my identity as being beloved child of God. It is immensely comforting to know that He continually places people in my life, that seek to see me in this way.
I don't have any sisters by birth. But I have several very close "ship" sisters who are leaving in the next few weeks.
To my "little" sister:
Thank you for showing me what a daughter is, irrespective of age. For becoming part of our family, even to the the point of getting vegetables on the boys plates when I wasn't there. Thank you for sharing your heart and dreams with me - for allowing us to be in your story.
To my "African" sister:
Thank you for being vulnerable, real, sarcastic and fun! For including us, all of us, in your adventurous plans. For being willing to join our family. Thank you for staying the extra year. And for the many hours of conversation giving me a whole new and different perspective on life. It has been awesome seeing you "shine" over the past few months.
Thank you for your wisdom. Your advice has left me speechless so many times as it belies your voice and your age. Thanks for repeatedly showing me what is really important but also your enthusiasm for what you do and what you plan to do. And for so many hilarious misquotes "Buddha -y ism" and laughs - a whole songs worth of actions! But most of all, your God given strength. I can't wait to see how He will use you.
To my older and wiser sister:
Thank you for kicking my butt when I needed it, for challenging me on a daily basis but above all for listening, over and over again, without judgement. Thanks for being my organisational translator and for an opportunity to do something different. For cups of tea and movie night. And occasional pommes frites. I am more than appreciative. Most of all, thank you that you are coming back to visit!
Overall, I know that God will bring new "sisters" to the ship but at this moment, I'm going to take some time to grieve over the relationships that are changing from "incredibly accessible" to "geographically challenging". I'm prioritising my remaining days and hours to create more memories with these ladies and to reminisce over our shared experiences, enjoyable and otherwise. Mostly though, I'm making the most of our time left so that they can all leave well and I can let them go. I know that we will catch up again in the future sometime. I don't know when or even where. What I do know is that Friends are the family we choose for ourselves. And I'm glad and sad at the same time, that these "sisters" chose me.