“It will break your heart to leave them”. This was something Lauri heard whispered into her own heart before we left for Ireland almost a decade ago.
Chris and Jimmy picked us up from the airport, when we arrived, back then. We had never been to Derry or Ireland before. We didn’t know a soul. Lauri and the kids rode with Chris and I rode with Jimmy in his dad’s van filled with our suitcases.
“Here, I bought you a Coke.” Jimmy handed me a cold one, a twin to the one he was drinking. I thought it was a pretty thoughtful gesture for a young guy who was probably about nineteen. We talked about how he had never been far from home but was about to head off to Scotland for University. As we entered Dungiven, a small town, sloping down the hill on the road from Belfast to Derry, I noticed a building which had one side painted with a large advertisement for “The Derry Journal”. Jimmy assured me that we were nearly home. Ever since then I’ve thought as Dungiven as a gateway to Derry. Whenever we’ve passed through I’ve registered that we were either leaving or nearly back - home.
We have had a great life in Ireland; our hearts are full. We have made so many good friends: godly, full-hearted folks who would take a punch or maybe even throw one for you, if they had to. We are grateful. Over the past couple weeks we have said several heart-wrenching goodbyes. People have said nice things. Lots of eyes have welled up with tears. Lemony Snicket compared grief to missing a stair. It catches you by surprise. I have realized that a heart can be full and breaking a little at the same time. We would be fools for leaving here, if we weren’t so confident that this was a new chapter in a book with our Lord as it’s author.
As we passed through Dungiven yesterday, headed to Dublin to board a flight to San Francisco with our family of seven, I had had a different emotion, a sobering feeling. I’ve felt the same way just before leaping off a cliff into the ocean or taking a big hill on a skateboard. I remember it when I was dating Lauri. I was eighteen and head-over-heels in love but I was arrested with an awareness that I was making very serious choices which I would never walk away from. Of course, we felt this way ten years ago when we left family to face a new adventure in Ireland. Here we go again. I fill my lungs with a quick and deep gulp of air, put my head down, focus my eyes ahead, and push forward.