I walked to the back of the house, turned the corner, and began descending into the basement. I took a step down. Then another. I wondered what I was doing.
This is crazy.
I shouldn’t be doing this. It feels wrong.
I reached the bottom. The hallway went on, ending in a faded half-light. I trudged unwillingly there. A pair of doors stood closed. Two of my sons lay behind the right.
Debbie and I knocked and entered the room. We said a quick goodbye to the son in the top bunk. We would see him soon again in Texas. Then we knelt to the bottom bunk to see Isaac. My voice cracked when I prayed for him. Then we said goodbye, not knowing when we’ll see him again.
Leaving Isaac in Michigan has been part of the plan all along. He had decided to move in with my parents and see if he could find a job he enjoyed there. But we had more than twenty years with his two older brothers. We had only eighteen with him. Now we were leaving him.
Debbie and I went back upstairs and I tried to be polite while a dozen people from the extended family said their goodbyes to us. Really all I wanted to do was just get away so I could work through my grief.
A colleague wrote recently that some people are “pre-grievers” and some are “post-grievers.” I hadn’t heard that before. That explained why Debbie struggled some months ago and I didn’t. She’s a pre-griever. I had felt almost heartless then. But I do feel strong emotions when events actually happen. I’m a post-griever.
So when people asked me recently if I’m excited to go to PNG, I didn’t know what to say. I will be excited later, after I fly over the ocean, get some good sleep, and wake up to the sounds of a new country.
We just had a video call with Isaac, a week after we said goodbye to him. He was smiling, laughing, and making good use of his wit and humor. He’s happier than I’ve seen him in a long, long time. He’s going to be okay. And so will I.