By the time you read this, I will have driven over seven thousand miles since leaving my home in Virginia to join the LEVN program. I’m really only about thirty-five hundred miles from the DC area, but thinking about that kind of distance is still mind-boggling. I’ve tried to focus my mind elsewhere besides home since arriving in California, but this past month has made me painfully aware of how far away I am as I’ve suffered the loss of some dear friends and my childhood dog, Clipper. The suddenness of these deaths meant that not only could I not be there to say farewell, I couldn’t be there to to ease the pain of other loved ones struck by these losses. I feel loved, welcomed, and to truly be a member of the community of LEVN, but the result of these events is an overwhelming sense of isolation since I cannot be with my loved ones who are grieving for the same reason. It’s unreasonable to expect any of my fellow LEVNs to be completely empathetic over the death of people they don’t know, and of course I don’t; everyone here has been a big help keeping me on track and away from wallowing for too long. But I am physically isolated from my community on the East Coast, and my desire to be there is in turn causing me to be emotionally isolated from my present community here. Part of me feels that going back, even for just a Christmas visit, and confirming their absence would provide me with the closure I feel that I need. In reality I know I would most likely be more upset and angry at myself for not being there. I am grieving and I’m really, really homesick.
So far I’d say I’m dealing with all of this fairly well? I’m still functioning for the most part and taking care of myself, and I’ve been making progress at my placement sites even though work feels overwhelming. I’m taking extra measures to try and immerse myself back into my present community too; I recently went to a concert (Con Bro Chill if you happen to be wondering) for the first time in ages and it was pretty fun, popping balloons aside. My fellow LEVN members are doing all sorts of activities and while some of them are unfamiliar, I’m taking the leap and participating in hopes of expanding my horizons. The near future will be especially busy as some of us will go and see the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church speak, immediately followed by others of us helping out with a speech and debate competition. In the blink of an eye it will be Thanksgiving and I will be meeting even more new people over the dinner table. I’m doing my best to get more involved in my church community as well; I look forward to helping out with their holiday craft fair during the same week we at LEVN will be helping out with a toy drive/holiday dinner. It definitely doesn’t feel as though time is flying right now but I can guarantee at Christmas I’m going to look back at all of this and ask myself where the time went.
This evening (around last Monday if you’re reading this) we talked a lot about gratitude (while we ate turkey burgers no less, ha ha) and there was a quote from Victor Hugo that really struck me. He said “To give thanks in solitude is enough. Thanksgiving has wings and goes where it must go. Your prayer knows much more about it than you do.” Part of why I am grieving is because I am so thankful to those who have passed for all they have done for me, and I feel like I never thanked them enough. This quote helps me keep in mind that whether I am with my loved ones or not, my gratitude to them, both living and deceased, will find its way to them. Thanksgiving really does have wings, and no, they aren’t just crispy turkey wings. While I deeply wish I could have seen Clipper one last time, I am so grateful to have spent fifteen amazing years with him in my life. I’m sure he knew I loved him even at the end. Likewise, those activities I’ll be doing that currently look like a laundry list? Those are probably going to be some of the times from this year I am most grateful for. I may as well start being grateful now by having the best time possible. My gratitude will reach everyone; my prayers know much more about it than I do.
Sierra Pacific Synod of the ELCA