Dan Allender gave us a beautiful send off yesterday morning, with so much emotion in his voice. He shared how we were all facing death as we left and I started to think about the different deaths — the end of a wonderful and rich six months of study, the ending of four four-day sessions of classes and group time, the knowing that the same group of people will never be in the same place at the same time, and the uncertainty of whether we’ll be able to maintain the closeness with the few to whom we’ve grown so deeply attached.
Dan cautioned how in the moments that we need to face death by saying goodbye, there is a temptation to flee because it is absolutely impossible to do it completely. Impossible to say all that is in one’s heart in the moment. IMPOSSIBLE. And so instead of pressing into the “not enough will need to be enough”-ness of it all, some of us grow cynical as a way to self-protect. Some do the opposite and overspiritualize it with declarations like, “I’ll see you in Heaven!” as a way of deflecting the pain in parting. Some refuse to show up at all. Refuse to bless. Refuse to grieve. And then carry a lifetime of unfinished grieving with them wherever they go.
There’s a better way and it was beautiful to be part of a group that was willing to enter into the joy and pain of departing. A few folks were forced to leave due to plane schedules, but the majority hung around for awhile, facing the moment with long hugs, smiles through tears, and lots of attempts — feeble and incomplete as they had to be — to express what was in our hearts. It’s a lot to bear the tension of a heart full of joy in the loving and being loved, alongside a heavy heart of grief, wishing somehow the moment could be more complete.
I’m now home, but not fully here. I wish I could go back to Chicago one last time for one more round. It’s part of the way of metabolizing pain slowly, I guess, imagining “if only…” Because even if there was a miraculous opportunity to gather all of those wonderful people for one more session…
We’d still have to say goodbye in the end.