The pile of discards on the floor grew while the boxes to left and right slowly filled, lists added before they were taped and numbered. Moving house is an onerous task at any time, but now the family were not just moving house, they were moving to the other side of the world.
The family temperature oscillated between hot and cold. One minute the move was high adventure; they visited the travel agent for brochures and scanned them eagerly. Then they viewed the pile of discards, pre-loved treasures and familiar junk, and the move slid into the unknown, unfamiliar, terrifying, and too-soon future.
The house was emptying fast. What could be sent ahead had been sent. Flights were booked and the tickets joined the passports in a document case. Friends and family called in or telephoned with tearful farewells, empty jokes and equally empty promises. Who knew what the future held for anyone in these turbulent times.
“Come on, hurry up. We’re already late and we’ve still to get these trunks through Customs!”
The little Morris Minor weaved through the traffic lanes, shaking its tailgate impatiently at tardy motorists. There was no time to dally or delay. This was the last farewell and a very difficult one indeed. The car was a valued member of the family it had served so well for many years. Another pre-loved treasure, another discard.
There are many difficult or traumatic events which interrupt our lives, sometimes at firsthand, often at second-hand when they affect loved ones and neighbours. We learn to develop coping mechanisms to get ourselves through the dark days, to rebuild our lives after loss. Whether we are successful in doing this depends on the foundation on which our lives are built.
A songwriter wrote “This world is not my home; I’m just a-passing through.” And in the concept of eternity he is perfectly right. But in the concept of a lifetime this is where we live and move and have our being. And we become attached to the place, the people and the circumstances of our lives. This is true even when, as Wordsworth wrote, “We fret, we fume, would shift our skins, would quarrel with our lot.”
The family hustled through the airport formalities, reaching the departure lounge in a flurry of anticipation. Finding an unoccupied bench they collectively sank back to rest their feet and get their individual breaths.
Clive sat forward, hands digging through his pockets.
“Mom!” his voice was agonised. “I’ve left my book!”
His mother sighed. “I picked it up, Clive. Where’s my bag?”
Justine passed it over. The book was handed to Clive who sat, panic over, clutching the book rescued from the discard pile. It wasn’t yet for reading but for remembering.
Justine turned to her father. “Did you bring the peppermints, Dad?”
He reached into his pocket, paused, and drew forth a handful of items. Selecting a key from the debris he said in a stricken voice, “I’ve still got the car keys!”
Mother opened her eyes. “I gave Ian my set.”
There was an easing of tension while they shared the peppermints. The departure lounge was filling steadily when the call for their flight came over the intercom, directing them to Gate 9.
Settled in the aircraft, Justine balanced her forehead on the porthole glass. One last look. Her last look was blurred by tears. She thought of a recent Scripture reading when Lot and his family left the city of Sodom, and the angel told them “...look not behind thee...” and she knew again the pain of leaving behind all that was familiar, all that she loved, and the tears flowed unchecked over her cheeks and soaked her collar.
Clive clutched his book. He didn’t cry but he couldn’t swallow the lump in his throat.
Father shrugged his shoulders into the embrace of the seat and leaned his head back. Finally there were no more decisions, no more he could do, now he had time to rest.
Mother clung to the bag on her lap. Until she found a new home and unpacked the boxes and the trunks her bag contained everything now comprising her life. She thought of the days and weeks of struggle and prayer, the recognition that she was a ‘stranger and a pilgrim on the earth,’ and the comfort of the promise of God: ‘for He hath prepared for them a city.’
Scripture references: Genesis 19:17; Hebrews 11:13,16.
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