On Loving, and Leaving, and Letting Go

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“How lucky we were to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” A .A. Milne

So it’s official. The next few months are when practically everything in my life will change: the roof over my head, the state on my driver’s license, the job that pays the bills, the vocation that’s been my heart.

As I shared a few months back, Mike and I are retiring and together with my mom will be relocating to western North Carolina later this summer. Our final Sunday at the beloved church Mike has pastored for 16 years is one month from tomorrow. We close on our home and Mom’s condo, Deo volente, in late July. I’ll work remotely for a few weeks and then retire from my fulltime job in publishing in September. New work awaits.

Sentimentality is a blessing as well as a burden. We’ve lived in our home in Wheaton longer than we’ve lived anywhere. I spent the first 24 years of my life as well as the last 16 calling Illinois home. Forty years, with a New England hiatus of 25, in one place. My roots have pushed deep into midwestern soil. The prospect of saying goodbye to friends and our church family, particularly the seniors whose unconditional love encircles our hearts, is painful.

It’s said that we process the grief of change before we realize the benefit of change.

There is that. The letting go.

And there is this. The looking forward.

Yesterday I did my daily lap around the large pond in the park near our home. When I reached the bridge over a small inlet, I spotted a pair of ducks, mallard and mate, still as carved wood along the riverbank. They’re there every morning.

At my approach, the male pushed off from the shore, emerald pinfeathers gleaming in the early morning sunshine, paddling serenely towards the opposite shore. After a moment’s hesitation, his mate followed, then paused and stopped mid-stream, her head craning back towards the place they had been nesting.

Curious, I slowed my pace to watch. The mallard waited for his mate to catch up, but she remained still, eyes beaded on what she was leaving behind. Seconds passed, then a minute or two. Seemingly content to wait, the male hopped on a branch protruding from the water and watched his mate.

I wanted to see this domestic duck drama play out, but there was a walk to finish and work waiting on my office desk.

Wherever these two were going, I mused, they were doing it in tandem. One was looking ahead, one lagging behind, longing for the known, the familiar, the comfort of the nest.

What course would they take, I wondered? Would they return to the security of the nest or continue their journey to the far shore?

If we stay where we know and are known, there is comfort, caring and community. But if we dare to believe that one can start again in a new place at 44 or 65 or 93? There is more faith than sight, more questions than answers, more possibility than promise.

Bleeding Hearts

Picked these in our yard this morning.

Another walk today, another early morning with the dew flashing diamonds in the lush Midwestern grass. That turn in the path, the familiar little bridge, the stream flowing steadily beneath.

An indentation remained in the reeds along the riverbank where a nest had been.The pair of ducks were gone.

I’ll miss them, but you know what? I’m happy for them too.

Surprise message in my afternoon chocolate today!