leaving l'Arche

How do you talk about leaving? 

How do you look back on two years of life in a place that allowed your cracks to show, hold the broken pot up high, try and explain how the light got in? 

That's the task at hand, at the end of my blinking cursor. A doomed endeavor, because there are times in life when black and white words will not wrap around the swell of a technicolor story, and this is one of them. They refuse to bend, though I command them to as I type this post once, twice, thirty times. Words know there is a level of being too deep for explanation-the same level that l'Arche has been anointed to touch.

So how then, do I write about leaving it-this place of being, of becoming?

We handed out icecream sandwiches before we broke the news to our friends and former housemates, as if a summertime novelty could sugar coat the news that breaks hearts, the news that redefines relationships, the news that change has come in the form of a job and it would dishonor my season at l'Arche not to listen when the Wind beckons. They pulled white paper off the treats and I spat it out: "We are moving." Actually, I tried to make my husband do it, but he wouldn't. I was angry at his refusal-the first sign that this announcement was for my own sake, my own cracked and heavy heart.

The sugar coating didn't work, of course.

There were tears, misunderstandings, questions and doubts.  

Not from them; From me.   

From my heart, which has never quite learned how to say "no" to one beautiful thing in order to say "yes" to another. From my heart, which doesn't believe in the meaning of "goodbye". From my heart, which knows now that it has been given far more than it ever could contain.  

""Katie, did you hear what I said?" I reached my hands out across the table, desperately wanting her to understand, desperately wanting to be understood.

"You're moving?"

"Yes Katie, we're moving to Gordon." 

She waits, never one to rush into wisdom. 

 "You'll be with me in the morning?" 

She offers the question outstretched, like the coral whirlybird she picked off the ground on our very first walk together.  She offers it like a gift for the taking.

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Oh, blessed Katie, yes, I will be with you. In two weeks, I will be miles away, in training to walk alongside college students, hopefully, in some small way, like you have walked alongside me. In a few months, I will have seen you a handful of times, for a burger at Wendy's and a walk around the park. And in the years to come, who knows? You say you'll hold my baby one day. You say our first will be a girl. Most of what you say comes true, though you may be waiting quite awhile for that particular prophecy to come to pass.

The future is mystery. But tomorrow morning, my pal, I will be with you.

Are we promised much more than that, anyway?

Are we sure of even one minute past this very moment?

Katie reminds me that until I am leaving, I am staying.

And among the thousands of lessons l'Arche has taught me, scattering them like seeds across my heart's soil, the one that I need right now is this: The gift is the present, the present is the gift, and today my task is simple: to see life for the offering it really is.