I went to see Allie yesterday. It's been almost two months. I needed to say good-bye. I couldn't find her at first - the gatekeeper gave me directions, but I went the wrong way and ended up wandering around for awhile. Waco's cemetery is beautiful. There are ancient live oak trees and well-cared for lawns and a sense of deep peace and of long histories. Her grave is in the old part of the cemetery, amongst the plots of the families for whom the streets of Waco and the buildings at Baylor are named. You walk between the Cashions and the Penlands and the Duttons and it's peaceful and quiet and exactly what a stately old cemetery should be.
But it's the exact opposite of Allie. Not the quiet - although that isn't really her either - but the grave itself. It is dry and cracked and the earth has pulled apart so you can see the exact outline of where they dug out six feet of earth and then dumped it back in. It is so dry. And there are the stems of flowers that died, because that's what happens to flowers in a place as hot as Waco, Texas in June. And it is so the opposite of my student and my friend who was full of life and love and excitement about the future.
And then I had to leave, because it was time to see my friends. Betsy, who just said she wanted to "stare" at me for awhile, to make sure I'm really okay. My college "family," whose lives and kids are full of joy. Evan, their seven-year-old, whom I held the day he was born, has Africa in his heart. He asked if he could come with me next time. I told him that you have to get nine different shots to go to Africa, and he said, "That's okay." Because he'd already told me, "I just want to go to Uganda and tell people about Jesus."
And on to Austin, where they play "Big City" and Johnny Cash for Flag Day on the radio, and where the Librarian and I could talk for hours about life and babies and everything that's happened, and going through five months of mail. And even going to see The Advisor and Committee Member #4, the former of whom was at least not mean and the latter of whom is always kind. And checking out our new building and new offices and finding that my new grey cubicle in the windowless corner of the basement is at least next to a good friend. And going to Maudie's and remembering that it really is that yummy.
That's how it is. These first weeks back are unique time - almost like kairos, really - where you have to listen and love and be loved and make decisions about how it's going to be from here on out. You have to pay attention to all of these things, because otherwise you might miss it, whatever it is, somewhere tangled up in the web of old friends and a dusty grave and seeing God's clear call in a little boy's life. It, whatever it is, is pure grace.