But all this beauty comes at a cost, an excruciating one, as is wont to happen down here on earth. The closer we come to truth, the more deeply the loss of such beauty cuts. One of those paradoxes that plague us in this life. So there are probably few high school graduations that are followed by as sincere and devastating a period of mourning. The very bonds which made the school experience great also make the departure very, very hard. There were many difficult goodbyes, in the parking lot, by the buses, back in Nairobi at the mission guest houses, as people left in taxis for the airport. Letters exchanged. Memories recited, one more time. Many kids leaving high school would probably be heading to college with a quorum of their acquaintances. Many would have a stable community to return to, the chance of running into old friends on a weekend or holiday. Instead these graduates come from remote regions, have parents in many countries, and are going to schools all over the world for university (Japan, Korea, Holland, Australia, Germany...). The goodbyes here seem more final.
And on graduation day, I saw that the pain of moving on is not just related to a good school, or good friends. Because the RVA high school graduates are not just leaving their school and teachers and friends, they are leaving their families and homes. They are leaving Africa. The choir sang "God bless the rains down in Africa" which led at least one of them, and many of us listening, to tears. It is sort of a cheesy 80's song, until you hear it sung by 30 or 40 kids who LOVE AFRICA and are within 12 hours of stepping onto airplanes to leave the very soil on which they have grown their whole lives, some departing for years, some forever. There is something about this place with all its crazy life and raw landscape and glaring need and injustice and hospitality and vastness that draws out the heart.
So graduation day was beautiful and painful all at the same time. We are extremely grateful to God, to the people who encouraged and advised us to send Luke, to dorm parents and coaches, classroom teachers and administrators. We are grateful that our son could learn, and learn to love to learn. Could take AP classes in the middle of Africa, could play varsity soccer and sing and make pottery, could be challenged spiritually and intellectually. Could be launched from a solid foundation to the halls of Yale. But in that thankfulness we also feel his sorrow as he goes.
Life, excruciatingly beautiful.