06 October, 2016

Empty chairs

Some of us went for a short stroll off the beaten track
 after lunch. I was so intently conversing with people that I didn't
get to stop and contemplate our beautiful green surroundings
for long. However I did snap a couple of photos. 
Yesterday was a good day. Please remember I wrote that. 

It was also a day when I remembered people who were in my life in the past but aren't anymore, simply because they're no longer here in Tokyo (temporarily or permanently) or even in Japan. 

Yesterday I went to the western end of Tokyo, close to the mountains. It was an annual gathering of women, most of whom are foreign missionaries. We gather to support one another, worship God, be refreshed, and to pray. In a group like that there's always a lot of mobility. Faces who were there last year who weren't there this year. 

What came to mind yesterday morning as I eased into seeing all these people was a song/scene from one of my favourite musicals, Les Miserables, Empty Chairs and Empty Tables. Now it's true that my friends haven't died, and in some ways I hesitate to make this comparison because I know that there are people out there who have dealt with much worse. But the accumulation effect is somewhat similar. 

Of course all this was on my mind already. If you've been here recently you will have seen a trend, especially since I wrote this post back in August about the colander of the expat life. So it's not really a surprise that it's still on my mind. This article about the accumulated grief and loss experienced in an expat life came up this week in my blog feed. It's written from a different cultural background to "safe" Japan, however it does mention many of the same losses we experience. It doesn't directly mention serial loss of friendships. But then no list is perfect!

I particularly like this from the end of the article:
Please do not normalize your life and minimize tough realities. Your overseas life is not normal. It is therefore imperative that you spend more time with God naming, grieving, and ultimately handing Him your legitimate loss, injustice, and stress.
This is the view from the verandah of the place where we met.
Gorgeous, yes?
This is partly my problem. I try to normalise my life, minimise the losses, and get on with life. However I'm realising I can't do that. I need to be sad sometimes. So here I'm naming it. I've lost friends. There were  empty chairs yesterday. Good friends who weren't there, who won't be there again. The seats weren't empty, they were full, of others, but not the same people with whom I've shared my heart in the past.

I had interactions that I didn't like yesterday too. I'm trying to process them today. Trying to figure out why I didn't like that and what I'm going to do next time I encounter those people. Perhaps I'm too introspective, I don't know. Somehow that's how God made me, though, because if I don't think about these things I get into a mess that I don't know the way out of.

But yesterday was also a good day, yes it was. 

I got to see a friend I missed saying goodbye to two years ago. I was able to say to her that it's been hard. 

I was able to use our car and the Japanese drivers licence God gave me to help women get together (not so many expats can drive in Japan, especially women, it seems). 

I was able to have some good conversations with good women, some I'd count as friends. 

I was also able to make deposits into other relationships, possibly people who I will count as friends in the future.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

We often think, Wendy, about how many of our good friends we left when we returned for good to the U.S. People who never knew our kids will probably never understand us as well. We feel privileged to know you and your boys! (from Steve, using Kathi's computer)