My travel days ended around a month ago. And I intended to write about each country I visited. I wrote a post about Korea. I wrote about Hong Kong (but never posted). I thought about Vietnam. And I tried to forget about India.
It was quite the month, and my heart was full of gratitude when I came home. I was ready for home. I was ready for Portland to win my heart over again.
But I can’t help it; my mind goes back to those beloved travel days.
Surprisingly, my mind goes back to India, the part of my travel that I’m trying to forget. The part of my journey that was most significant and special to me. The part of my life that’s so valuable that it’s almost painful.
It is never easy to say goodbye to an aging grandmother. She still lives in her small dusty apartment. She still has that ghost-like smile that peaks rarely. Her sadness is contagious. Needless to say, India was a difficult week.
It’s easy to ask myself “What’s saving me right now?” Sometimes, it’s good company, sometime it’s conversations of wisdom, sometimes it’s dancing in your kitchen at midnight, and sometimes it’s the hope/truth that I have more to learn and grow in the years to come.
But my grandmother? I’m not sure she has been able to answer that question that since my grandfather died. Or maybe it was since all her plants, her “children” as she calls it, had withered from neglect. Or maybe it was since her stroke robbed her from sight and her ability to sew/knit.
What is saving you, grandma?
My heart broke over, and over, and over, and over again when I saw her. Hope seemed to be a faint idea, a dream we once had, a foolish kid’s ideal we dared to play with.
I stood in the space of pain, of very heavy pain, and had started to feel numb.
Pain, suffering, regret, darkness, loneliness… were these the only prevailing truths in this dusty old apartment?
Merely minutes before I left, I took a selfie with that sweet old lady, and then shared a hug with her. It was unlike any other hugs we’ve shared, this was different. It was a deep hug. It was one where our souls merged, where both our pain leaned against each other, and our hearts held onto each other’s existence.
For that brief moment, I felt as if we could both maybe do it. I felt as if it maybe we could bear this pain. It didn’t seem any lighter. But this wretched pain, perhaps we could bear it for a little while longer. Our pain is different, and yet the same. It had each other, so we could go on a little longer.
That could have been the last time I hugged her. Or maybe, if I’m lucky, it won’t be.
Bearing pain alone is disorienting. Bearing pain alone for an extended period of time is utterly maddening.
I’ve felt deep loneliness before. I’ve tasted the pain it brings. But I’ve been fortunate to have prayers answered slowly.
But what do I do when I see that in someone else? Especially in someone that matters to me the most?
I run away. I try not to think about it. I try to move on.
But how do I stand here, in the other side of the world, well, safe and loved, while I know a part of my heart is sitting quietly in the other side, with such deep, great pain? How do I stand by and not do anything? What do I do?
I’ve been trying to avoid thinking about India because I know there is little I can do.
I’m used to prophetic language; words that are used to awaken the dead; songs sung to transform dreamers into doers; love spoken to bring pure light into darkened souls.
I don’t know how to speak about pain that isn’t about to end anytime soon. I don’t know how to say, “let us remain in pain – maybe forever.”
Or perhaps, I know the words. Perhaps, I’m just scared to admit –
“Oh yes, there is pain that seems endless, a horizon that never stops. But darkness does not win the battle because I show up. I stand in pain with you. We merge our painful souls, we are not alone. Our pain becomes one. You and I, we belong to each other. This is how we win. This is how light penetrates our souls. This is how we birth hope into our tiny, lonely world.”
I’m curious: How do you engage with showing up with/in pain? What stories have you heard or experienced?
(Wondering about Singapore? That place is a delight, as always. However, it was unfortunate that it landed at the end of my travel days, when my heart was tired and longing for home. So there isn’t much to write or reflect about. But as always, a part of heart will forever live with the mighty lion that rules over that precious land and the people. Here is a post I wrote about Singapore last year!)