Today is Election Day in Mozambique. This means that everything is closed today- all businesses and all schools. This allows the citizens the opportunity to go out and vote and the ex-pats the opportunity to stay safely tucked away in their homes in case any unrest occurs. Don and I wanted to make this day of seclusion in our home a special vacation day for us, so we planned a day of rest and good eating. For us, this would mean sleeping in and starting off with champagne mimosas and Eggs Benedict. The sleeping in part was easy- no problems there. Yet as we sat down to eat our Eggs Benedict, we both began to cry. It was not the same without William here. Who would we give the extra sauce to? Who would eat my second one when I could not eat both? We could not take our first bite!
While my husband has awaited this season of our lives for a decade, and while I am happy to have this time to devote solely to him, I have to admit that I was dreading having our family nest empty. I don’t doubt that part of my dread is a result of encountering an empty nest years earlier than I ever expected to do so.
We took Will back to America to complete his last two years of high school at Delaware County Christian School. As many of you know, this is the same school I taught at for five years, Cassie and Brent both graduated from DCCS, and Will has been a student there since second grade. For Will, this transition has been a good one. It is like going home for him. All of his friends are there, he is playing soccer again, he is living with the most amazing host family in the universe (Shout out to the Georges!), he is playing guitar and joining the worship bands at school and church, he is in a brick and mortar school (Peer pressure can be a good thing too!), and he is thriving. Best of all, he has not forgotten us. He calls most days after school on his way to soccer practice, and he has requested to come back to Mozambique for his summer vacation as well as a gap year before he heads off to university.
I am so very proud of Will for having been such a sport about living here with us in Mozambique. Cassie and Brent had the option of staying in America when we made this major life change. Will did not have a choice. While he did at times remind us of this, he never complained about all he had to deal with here. He stuck out a lot of difficult situations- a new language, a new culture, being different than 99.9% of the people around him (doesn’t make it easy to blend), being away from family and friends, losing his beloved dog Bailey who could not come with us, a new school and later adjusting to home schooling via an online school, as well as some extremely challenging situations like having our house broken into and robbed while we were away and then being the first person to have an AK47 shoved in his chest when two robbers invaded our property. He did not have many friends here. His only friend was his South African buddy Luc, for whom we are very grateful for his friendship. All that he experienced here has created the young man he is today. He has a whole different world view than his peers, and we trust that God will use this greatly in his future.
I remember how hard it was to let our first child go. When we took Cassie and left her at Gordon College, it felt like someone had died. There was a huge hole in my life. I prayed and prayed for God to fill this hole. Yet He responded that He could not do this. I would have to learn to live my daily life without her in it. I clung to the words shared with me by a colleague at my school…that at the end of the four years of university, I would be closer to my daughter than I was before. She was right. Despite the distance between us, our relationship was strengthened as she matured into the young woman I always prayed she would become.
I also had to give up my Brent earlier than I expected. He was just about to start his senior year of high school when we moved to Mozambique. We gave him the choice of staying behind to complete his senior year at DCCS or to come with us. While he wanted to stay with his friends and attend DCCS, he felt an obligation to come with his family to Mozambique. We arranged for him to complete his senior year online in partnership with DCCS. He would still be able to return for his senior prom, his senior class trip, and to graduate with his friends. In February, we sat in the headmaster’s office finalizing these plans and when I looked over at him, he looked like a frightened deer in headlights. I could tell something was up. When we got home he said he did not know if he could do this. He needed more time to decide. He came to us shortly after that and said he wanted to stay in the US for his senior year. It felt like someone stabbed me in my heart and twisted the knife. I was so unprepared to let him go. Over the course of the next few weeks, I threw a bit of an emotional temper tantrum with God…wasn’t I already giving up enough in moving to Mozambique? Did I also have to give up my son too? I did not know if I could do this. One night while Don was off in Mozambique and I was home alone with my boys, I was at the kitchen table doing my school work. Brent came up from the basement, pulled me to my feet, looked down into my eyes and said, “It will be okay, Mom.” As I looked up into his eyes, I could see a confidence, maturity and contentment that I had never before seen in him. I knew he was right…it would be okay. He gave me the longest, best ever hug to reassure me. And it was alright…he grew immeasurably during his senior year. I then had my year of loss restored to me when he came to spend a gap year here in Mozambique with us. He left Mozambique a transformed young man…ready for university and knowing what he wanted out of life.
So now there are just two of us, unless you count Harmony. Ha! Not!
I was dreading the day I would have to say goodbye to William at the Philadelphia airport and would head back to Mozambique. He does not know this, but for days before I left, I sat alongside him as he slept in his bed and covered him with all the prayers a mother can pray. Even that morning, I did the same. At the airport, he helped me out with my suitcases and stood by me while I checked them in at the curbside. All that was left then was to hug and say goodbye. I moved this along as I knew if I dwelled on it, I would not be able to go. I headed in and was just about to continue up the escalator when I realized the attendant had not given me my passport back. So I had to go back outside to get it, or I really would be going nowhere. As I was heading out, he was heading in to give me one more hug. So sweet and considerate. I got my passport and made my way up the escalator waving to him until he was out of my sight. Then it became a challenge of walking it out, one step at a time, to my gate, onto the plane, to my seat, and taking off leaving America behind. My first stop on my way home was Amsterdam. Don was waiting there for me and we would spend five days together before heading back. I got off the plane, collected my suitcases and made my way out. He was there waiting for me with a beautiful bouquet of flowers. As soon as he wrapped his arms around me, I melted and cried. I was hoping the worst was behind me. I have learned from experience these past few years that the anticipation of the goodbye is much worse than the actual part of doing it.
We had a wonderful time in Holland before we returned to Mozambique. I have always been ready and excited to return to my life here. But this time I did not feel the same anticipation. I would be entering into a new season of life and I just could not picture what it would look like now. I have been back here exactly two weeks as of today. It has not been easy. The first few days were tough. Moments like walking past his room and seeing the empty desk where he used to spend most of his time would make me cry. Other times, for no reason at all, I would sense his absence and fill with tears. And there was the time when I found a guitar pick out in the living room that he had left behind. There have been moments like today, when we had our first “whatever without him” like going to Mimmo’s for pizza, food shopping, or eating Eggs Benedict. Yet as I have done with so many other things that I have had to sacrifice, I will press on and trust in what God is doing in all of our lives. I have absolutely no doubts that this is what is best for William, and for Brent, and for Cassie. If it is what is best for them, then it is best for me. We used to be five…and now there are two…”It is well with my soul.”