This week is full of joy, pure joy. I am writing simply to share it. Sometimes our joy comes quietly and we are content to treasure it silently, and contemplate its beauty. At other times, we are ready to shout our happiness from the rooftops and share it with the world. This week I’m experiencing BOTH of these joys. This week, as I count down to the arrival of our firstborn and her family, my heart is full and I find myself swallowing lumps in my throat and wiping overflowing eyes when I least expect it.
Can this be real? Can my girl be coming home at last? How well I remember that time ten years ago, when we said goodbye. Her journey would take her to Moscow, and then, on to Siberia (via the Trans Siberian RR) , to a little Buryat village to teach English…the only English speaker in that area. This was total immersion at it best (and worst). She experienced it all….the lack of indoor plumbing, the severely cold Siberian winters, carrying wood in to keep the stove going, needing no refrigeration because the window sill was a sufficient icebox.
Our little girl had grown up loving Russia and all things Russian, writing to and praying for Russian Christians while the country was still closed. And then it happened! Perestroika (restructuring) began in the mid-80s under Gorbachev and by 1991 Russia was open to visitors and all things American. Our daughter was twelve; ten years later she left for Russia. Her dreams were to open an orphanage, which didn’t work out. But she met a handsome young Russian and that DID work out.
She embraced Russian culture and language with a vengeance. In so many ways, these were her people. And soon, she had a lovely little Russian princess of her own. Someone else to love and enjoy. I knew the feeling, I had had a firstborn too. I knew the joy of having a little girl.
What I did NOT know was the pain of loss she would experience over the next few years. My heart broke as I prayed for her from afar. I longed to hold her and yet I knew that her grief was a personal grief, too personal for me to fully understand. I had never experienced the loss of a child. My daughter had entered uncharted territory. I felt ill equipped. This is indeed, one of the hardest things for a parent to deal with…longing to comfort, yet knowing that, for a certain time, there is no comfort. There is only a deep, dark, tunnel of grief. The child we rescued from skinned knees is the adult we cannot rescue from life’s very darkest journeys.
She returns to us a different person than the young 20-something who left over ten years ago. She will bring her darling daughter, our granddaughter, and her sweet, gentle husband. He will begin the journey she started long ago. He will take over the cultural immersion as he learns English, as will their little girl. He will experience all things American, as his wife experienced his homeland all those years ago. Our world is a little bigger and a little smaller—– and the circle continues. A little Russian girl will come to America. She will come marching down the entryway at the airport and she will march straight into our hearts. And here it comes again….that lump is building. I am swallowing hard and there is a familiar wetness coming from my eyes. My heart is full and this is life at its best. They are coming home, and this must surely be what they call….pure joy!