I do not know how to write about departure in a lovely way. I want to. I want the right image and metaphor, I want to spin words for us that promise understanding, that promise new light on the hard things. I really wanted this blog post to capture some miraculous, never-before-understood thing about leaving that would make my friend's move the subject of wise reflection rather than twenty-something angst.
But this word, departure, it does not give me metaphors. It brings the hard gravity of loss. And that gravity lines my face and hides in my voice and so when I've talked these last few days, or tried to sit down and write, I echo back my fears that departure means disappearance. I echo the edge of loss, and it sounds like a storm and a cliff and I'm afraid. And as I keep typing and typing it feels more and more like angst, like gravity, like loss, and less and less like a pretty word picture.
But this morning in the early grey rain and the words of Rite I and the promise of praying, I was reminded of a scene in a story I've been reading for years, in the middle of thinking about how I was going to talk about this departure. The funny part is that I've never played the character I now find myself playing, and she is strange and new and fits awkwardly in my skin.
I've always believed I'm Lucy in Narnia - the one who believes, the one who adores Aslan and sees Him first. I've always thought of myself as the person who is faithful, loyal to the promises even when they seem far away. So when the scene that appeared in front of me as I thought about departure and my fears about my friend moving away in two weeks, it surprised me that I was not Lucy, but Susan.
Susan? Seriously, Father? I'm Susan? The one who doubts, who is too practical by half, who prides herself on being realistic and thinks that Lucy is crazy for finding a world in a wardrobe? I'm Susan who chases this world and fears change and waits too long to see You?
Literature does not budge. No matter how deeply I want to play Lucy or Peter or even Edmund, no matter how desperately I pass off the moment as, "It's just me being me and reading too much into books again"... Susan and I find ourselves bound to the same moment of fear. Literature will do that to you, find your heart out in its secret hiding places, expose you to yourself, make you read in surprise your own story in other words.
"Then, after an awful pause, the deep voice said, 'Susan.' Susan made no answer but the others thought she was crying. 'You have listened to fears, child,' said Aslan. 'Come, let me breathe on you. Forget them. Are you brave again?' 'A little, Aslan.' said Susan." - Prince Caspian
And I hear the same deep voice sounding in my own life. Hilary, He says. You are listening to fears. You are listening to the fear of disappearance, the fear of anonymity, the fear that when the car door closes it's like a door locked and bolted on the friendship. A fear of "never again." A fear that you haven't said all the things you want to, and now there is no more time. A fear of no more time. A fear that friendship does not cross borders, after all, but fades and falls apart as the threads are stretched over miles.
And yes, Lord, I am afraid of all these things. I am Susan, and her realistic, unhopeful self. I am Susan, afraid to trust someone else who says they see more clearly than I do. I don't believe that Lucy can see You; I wander through the forest complaining that I'm following blindly the faith of another person, and as far as I can tell this venture towards "Aslan" will get us all killed.
And then there is enough silence in my heart, enough waiting, just enough courage, to see Your outline moving in front me - to see the shadow You cast over my life and my heart. There is just enough pause to open my eyes to see how You must have been walking in front of me all along, ordaining the things that come to pass, parting the seas and calming the storms.
So today, facing the soon departure of my dear friend, I blink twice and strain my eyes to see His outline. And I hear His deep voice resound somewhere in the pit of my stomach, chiding me. "You have listened to fears, Hilary." And then He does something we celebrate at Pentecost, we celebrate in the upper room with the disciples. Come, let me breathe on you. Forget your fears. Are you brave again?
A little, Lord. I whisper. Just enough to keep walking.