G is for Germany.
In a little less than two months, three of my children are headed there. Joel, Nathan and Julia are going over to visit their father, who has been stationed in Germany since last September. They will be spending approximately six weeks of the summer with him … from Memorial Day all the way through Independence Day.
Can I just be honest and admit I miss them already? I do. I think about it so many times each day, already dreading the very moment they will step onto the plane and fly away from me.
Encouragers in my life try to remind me of the fantastic opportunity being handed to my children. “They will learn so much in Europe! Think of all the amazing things they will see and do. What a blessing for them!”
I usually nod my head in agreement because I understand, so completely. And yet … honestly … I just wish they didn’t have to go. I’d rather them stay home with me.
Even so, I’ve been helping them prepare for the trip. I bought a book for learning German phrases. Ever so slowly, we are working our way through the lessons, with me learning along next to my children. My dear friend Esther is German. She moved to the States 20 years ago or so, after she married an American soldier. One day soon, Esther is coming over to give all of us some cultural lessons about German life. “Perhaps,” she said, “I will even prepare a German food.” I’m looking forward to that. I might even try out a German phrase or two on her, just to see if I am anywhere near the correct pronunciation. Mostly though, I’ve just been surprised to discover that, despite my desire to keep my kids home, I feel incredibly grateful to be involved in this part of the trip, even if it is just the preparation before leaving.
Lately I’ve wondered if my emotional reaction to my children’s upcoming trip to Germany might be something of a delayed grief. Seven years ago, another trip to Germany was in the works. It was my trip, one which I planned to take to visit their father on his 2 weeks of R&R during a deployment to Iraq. I read all the German travel books I could find, wrote long lists of places I hoped to see and visit, spent hours scouring the internet for places to stay, tucked away every penny I could spare to cover the costs of our European vacation.
Unfortunately, the expectation of that trip never came to pass. Instead, the unexpected happened. My marriage fell apart. He walked out on fourteen years. I have never really understood why.
Grief is an odd experience, so different for each person to process. Yet, counselors tell us every person in mourning goes through through the same stages before they reach a place of acceptance: denial, isolation, bargaining, depression, and even anger.
I am not an angry sort of person. Truthfully, I’m an emotional stuffer. It takes me a long, long time to get good and angry. Unfortunately, when I do, it takes me a long time to get over that anger.
I can clearly remember the day not too long after my ex-husband left when I woke up mad, more offended than I’d ever felt in my life. Strangely, at least initially, my impassioned outrage was focused mostly on the loss of my trip to Germany. My entire life I had wanted to travel overseas, particularly to Europe. Years of dreaming. Months of planning. Now, after plans had been made, it wasn’t going to happen. I had gotten that passport for nothing. It was a bitter pill, stuck in my throat. Nothing I seemed to do could make it go down.
Over the course of the past seven years, I’ve worked through most of the indignation resulting from my divorce. Well … at least everything except the trip to Germany. Until recently, it didn’t come up all that often. Perhaps from time to time, as I opened the firesafe box looking for a birth certificate or some other important piece of paperwork, I would notice my passport tucked away safely inside, never used. Irritation would surface, but soon enough it would subside again. For the most part, this was a non-issue, or at least that’s what I thought.
But now, with my children’s trip to Germany clearly marked on the calendar, I realize I’m still dealing with one last emotional wound, dating back seven years. The memory of that unused passport still haunts me. As I help my children get ready to travel to a place I’ve never been but longed to see, I have felt God wanting to resolve the ache of that loss. A loss I’d rather not think about or face.
Seven years ago, in the midst of the deepest sorrow of my life, I discovered the truth in the words of the psalmist:
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted. ~Psalm 34:18
God was certainly near to me in those days. Over time, in His care, my ashes became something beautiful. And that gives me hope. Though I may still ache a bit over the loss of my own trip to Germany, I am choosing to see it as a gain for my kids, who certainly would not have this opportunity if I not lost mine. I expect my heart will be sad while my children are away. Even so, I can trust God will be near to me in those moments, and continue to bring good out of the losses in my life.
Learning the truth of that promise has definitely been worth the cost of an unused passport.