Friday, August 31, 2012

Almost September

I looked up and realized it was about time to flip the calendar to September. I almost can't believe it. Our first weeks in Afghanistan crept by like molasses, but ever since then, the sand has rushed through the hourglass as if it was put in fast forward motion. As friends have prepared to go home over these past weeks, we have had quite a few moments of deployment review. It's the funniest things that linger in our memories-- the time a friend suggested we use two trays instead of just one for Mongolian Grill, because the food was so hot that it nearly burned our hands through the cardboard, the nights of watching West Wing or sitting on the balcony of our building for hours, and, always, the stories of our first meetings which, for some strange reason, most often happened in the bathroom. These will be the threads that we hold onto long after we have moved into a new phase of our lives.

September also means it's time to begin packing and preparing for the arrival of the chaplain who will replace me. Over these months, I have accumulated enough letters, cards, and artwork to cover the walls of my office and my bedroom. From pictures of new babies and families from church to random people whom I may never meet but who, nonetheless, sent boxes of girl scout cookies and toiletries for my soldiers, everything that has come through the mail has found a spot on one of my walls. They are a shrine to the kindness and generosity of countless people who have helped to make this year a little brighter for me and many of the soldiers and sailors with whom I work.

As much as I dread peeling each thing off my walls, I also know the whole process will be deeply cathartic. I know I can't keep all of it. Well, I guess I could, but I doubt that I will ever revisit such a large bundle again, at least in its totality. Instead, as I take each letter, each card, and each picture off the wall, I will give thanks to the person who sent it. I will remember the gratitude I felt when it came in the mail. I will acknowledge, once again, that it is the smallest gestures of care which make much of the difference. I am sure that there are a few I will keep, but for the most part, I also realize that bringing closure to this time of my life now, and not putting it off, will help me live better in present time. Life is always moving forward and letting go, as hard as this is to do, is how to stay engaged in whatever comes our way.

Already soldiers have talked about how sad my office will be without my brightly covered walls. I know they are right. I will be sad, too. But empty walls signify our impending departure. It's not quite time. There are still weeks of work left to do. Yet, with September on the horizon, we all feel the ground shifting beneath us. We hold it all in both hands-- the grief for our losses here and the excitement for what is soon to unfold. Shortly, the walls here will be bare, but I know there will be other walls to fill, too. For this, I am surely grateful.

1 comment:

  1. Mel,
    As time rushes by and your return to the states draws near, know you are in the prayers of many. May God keep you safe and strong as you transition back home. Know that you are deeply loved and frequently prayed for and that you have done good work, God's work. And that is all that matters.
    Love and prayers, Terri