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Monday, August 26, 2013

A LAMent

I'm reading Psalms, and there are plenty of laments.  How LONG oh Lord?  Why?  Remember how it used to be?

So I think a small lament is in order today, for the departure of our eldest son.  His last day was perfect.  Early church where the rocking arrangement of hymns during the offering included How Firm a Foundation, which has been a theme for my faith as a mother in his life (reached through my sorrows to grab me when I was tenuously pregnant with him and visiting McLean Presbyterian Church, and repeated randomly as we walked into the chapel at Yale to drop him off for college). Sunshine like we have barely seen in these southern hemisphere winter months.  A couple of hours of fooling around with tennis and soccer after a huge cinnamon roll post-church brunch.  Last meal at Habesha, an Ethiopian restaurant that was mouth-watering spicy and delicious and enjoyed with a fireplace view of the second half of the Tottenham game on the way to the airport, family expanded with Bethany and Jack's friend Rich.  Then the flurry of getting his trunk off the roof-rack, the still-discombobulated post-fire airport (WAY WAY more organized than our last post-fire disaster departure), hugs and lines and finally he tells us to get going home since it will be well after ten when we stumble down the escarpment in the extreme dark with groceries to unload.

And so the summer comes to an end.  And what a run it was.  If I had to name this boy's main talent, it might be the ability to get back to Africa with funding and a purpose and yet manage to seem to have loads of time to enjoy life and this place.

This year he took up a question I've had since many years ago in Uganda, seeing kids born with spina bifida, and wondering about a possible connection to malaria.  Only now there is technology for geographic information and ways to statistically look at this, and we now live in a country where malaria is not a universal blanket but a disease with a distribution.  He and his colleague, another delightful student, worked on collecting data which they can now analyze in their Fall research course.
But though that was the structure and justification for the summer, he packed in much more.  Motorcycle rides and repairs, camping with nothing but a pan and a blanket, hikes, bus ride to Mombasa and back, friends and more friends (Mom did I tell you so and so was going to spend the night?), football practice with his little brother and tennis with his sister, indoor soccer nights, swahili, Top Gear on satellite TV, med school applications, cooking or making coffee, all with background music from new artists on his ipod instead of ours, all with a presence and passion that is unmistakable.

And now all that is over and gone, the very house feels empty.

Our firstborn has many gifts.  Perhaps they are best described as an exuberance of life.  Energy.  Curiosity and insistence.  A whirlwind of greasy tools and strewn clothes and empty coconuts and finished books.  Loud music, ready arguments, fresh viewpoints, new ideas.  No fear in pushing back against the status quo, calling us on our own sins and inconsistencies.  What used to feel like a strong-willed frustration I now see as a gift that sharpens and grows us as parents.  He revels in Africa, in all its crazy washed-out roads and hard-to-understand customs and loss, in all its spectacular vistas and animals and freedom.  He is deep-down loyal, to us, to family, to mission, to place.  He is a force that draws all of us into his orbit for a while, and leaves us a bit bewildered in his wake.  His siblings look up to him, and he cares about who they are.  Though he is surrounded by the epitome of success-reaching colleagues, he is bold enough to define that in his own terms.  Though as a mom I could wish for a little less love of risk-taking, I believe that because of that characteristic he will be a blessing in this world.

So today feels a bit grey, a bit flat, a bit subdued and too easy.  I am remembering the summer, particularly those golden 9 days with the WHOLE family here, with a mixture of thankfulness and longing.  It has been five full years since we first dropped this boy off, so small, age 15, drove away with him standing under the tree in the parking lot of RVA, both Scott and I with flowing tears, our car silent and edgy.  Every year adds more goodbyes.  That was the moment which launched independent directions for our family, necessary and right, but my heart wished it could have come five (or twenty or a hundred) years later.  Since then, the rhythm has not been a nuclear family with occasional separations, but a dispersed family with occasional reunions.

Our mission's motto: for the world's good and God's glory.  This is the cost.  Independent kids with a drive to do and be, who move out with courage.  And who, so far, come back, and with that I have to be content.


Emmy A said...

Thank you for your words. As a mother of little ones (the oldest who is strong-willed like me), I so appreciate your insight and wisdom when you speak about your kids. Parenting is hard and your kids are reflections of the wonderful job you and your husband did to raise them. I hope someday to get to meet you. My husband and I hope to become dorm parents at RVA sometime in the future. I started reading your blog when you were dropping children off at RVA (that's how I even found it!), and I hope we can stand in the gap for kids whose parents are serving the Lord in other places. All that to say, thank you for sharing your life and your thoughts.

Bobbi said...

Our eldest met you in Baltimore while you were there. You final paragraph uses words to paint life. Thank you. Peter connected us to your blog and I read it regularly and pray for you. You have the some of the gifts of exuberant living and risk taking that your eldest has, modified with the cares and trust of of Mom's heart. Bobbi Campbell

Joshua Trott said...

Thanks. It's a joy to hear about the young man he is becoming. The writing glows with a combination of vivid imagery and passion for the subject.

Eli and Krista said...

My Mama Heart is already aching as I think about our kids leaving us someday. We are planning to be in Africa in two years to do medical missions (my husband's in his last year of residency). Our babies are only 15 months and still in utero, but because we're expecting to homeschool in Africa (and thus have more time together as a family than most families do) and because of the unique bonding experience missionary families tend to have, we're also expecting it to be especially difficult when our children grow up and GO someday. I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I already think about this, but thanks for your post and for sharing what your Mama Heart is experiencing with your beloved children.