anxious

We are anxious to get back to Burundi.

We are feeling anxious about getting back to Burundi.

There are two distinct implications of that word.

One feels like an anticipatory excitement. “I’m so anxious for you to meet our new baby”. The other feels like dread that has been dragged from an expected future into the present. “I get anxious every time I think about it.”

This single word has two almost opposite uses.

I am nervous and worried about something bad happening in the future.
I am eager and excited for something good to happen in the future.

In that way (those ways) I feel like anxious is about as accurate of a description of how we’re feeling about returning to Burundi.

On one hand, we can’t wait to get back. To the place that feels like home. To our friends, our team, our community. To a feeling of normalcy. To our work, our place, our home.

On the other hand, there is a sense of not knowing what will happen. The other day I realized why it feels strange. Usually, if I am nervous about something it’s because I don’t know how something outside of my control will happen. I don’t know how someone else will act. I don’t know how something will occur. I don’t know because it’s out of my control. the weather could turn bad. He could get angry. This thing might fall over. In this case, the unpredictable future event…is me. I myself am the thing that I don’t know how to anticipate. I don’t know how I will feel once we’re back in our home.

When something happens so your own home – the place you normally feel the most secure, at ease and relaxed – becomes the site of a violent attack it throws something that felt secure into an unknown. It kind of dunks the idea “I feel at home” into a whole new set of emotional experiences.

“Be anxious about nothing” is the instruction given to followers of Jesus. I just looked it up, and the word there (μεριμνᾶτε, if ancient Greek means anything to you) is translated into English as worry, as often as it’s translated anxious. So we are talking about that second kind of anxious, the nervous, negative one. But it’s hard to do that- the never being anxious part. At least certain times.


UPDATE: WHAT IT’S ACTUALLY LIKE

We are now back in our home in Burundi. We’ve been back a few days and can now see – at least a little bit – what that anxiety was about. What it was for. If it was justified.

For me, it has been surprisingly uneventful.

I think the fact that we spent a few weeks here after the attack before we left for Canada was probably very helpful so our most recent memories are not those directly tied to that event. Our team has made our entry about as smooth as possible.

There are still times when I pause in a particular place in our home, and there is a surreal quality to the memories of that night. Kissing my daughter as I tuck her into bed then turning around and realizing “this is where I was almost murdered” is about as disconnected of a set of thoughts and emotions as I can imagine.

I don’t mean to sound flippant about it, but since that memory is actually part of my lived experience – it is actually real to me – in some way by definition it can’t feel unreal. It is what happened there. So there is this tension between what I know to be unreal, unbelievable, impossible, and yet at the same time is not.

It’s hard to discern how much of what the house feels like now is due to prolonged absence (these eight months is by far the longest we’ve ever been away), how much is a new reality that is painted over everything we’ve ever known here due to the attack, and honestly how much is the nine-hour jet lag on top of 40-some hours of travel.

Today is the third Sunday of Advent, the one often associated with JOY. So that’s what I want to focus on this week. Joy, maybe not because of how I feel, perhaps even in spite of it. Joy that we’re home. Joy that we’re all still here. Joy that it’s almost Christmas. Joy because of what Christmas means.

‘Be anxious for nothing’ feels like a definition of joy, so I guess I’ll just go with that.

Family Hikes in the Canadian Rockies.

So this is quite a bit late on account of what our month or so has looked like. However, we had such a great family getaway – and it was so beautiful that I have to share some of these pictures.

Since it was now almost two months ago.. I don’t have a lot to say…so here are some images of what we were up to…

Scrambling to the top
summit of Ha Ling peak 2,407m up
pretty nice place for a snack break
Back in town
Start of the next day’s hike
The girls trying to do some kind of Lion-King-Pride-Rock thing in the middle of a hike up a mountain.
Alma checking to see if the bed of moss covering the entire forest is as soft as it looks. Answer: yes, it is.
lunch break at the top
If you’re going to have take-out pizza for supper – might as well have a nice view.

Thanksgiving

I am sitting in my mom’s hospital room where she has been sitting up, eating, getting out of bed, having a conversation with me, and was able to walk (with assistance) down the hall.
About a week ago she could do none of those things.
About a week before that the doctor told us as a family to be having end-of-life discussions.
About a week before that she drove up to the city and spent the afternoon picking plums at my sister’s house and felt fine.

So yeah…it’s been a bit of a month.

After only a day or so in the hospital, it was very clear that mom was very, very sick. So much so that my siblings all started to make their way out, knowing we might be saying good-bye to our mother. That her 15 grandkids would have to say goodbye through a window. That her siblings would never get a chance to sit and chat with her again. That us kids would lose our mom.

Her kidneys had shut down (creatinine levels ~500) they were seeing something in her liver, her heart was fast and irregular, she was in a lot of pain, was completely fatigued, and couldn’t walk. Her Thyroid was WAY off (so hyperthyroid that TSH was undetectable, and presented as hypothyroid as the thyroid hormones basically went toxic) There were some really rough days, but slowly she’s been getting better. There was one stretch where her body was so fatigued, worn out that she slipped into delirium, and didn’t sleep for over 3 days. Over the next while her kidneys recovered completely due only to hydrating them with IV fluids. Her thyroid is now responding very well do a steroid to suppress it (Prednisone) and her strength is returning.

I accidentally took this photo in the middle of the night during one of those hard weeks. I realized it fairly accurately conveyed what I was feeling. Everything was off-kilter and fuzzy.

Amazingly it was Thanksgiving weekend when everyone got here. So for the first time in probably a few decades, all of my brothers and sisters and all our kids were together. We had an outdoor, physically-distanced thanksgiving meal. A few of them actually. Since many of you will know what happens in a tight-knit community when the word gets out that someone is in the hospital. Ham dinners showed up. Turkey feasts. Someone brought out a massive roaster full of ribs one day at like 10 AM. One of our cousins brought down his camper so we could have more people stay at mom’s place, while at the same keeping the house empty so M and I could come home and sleep after our shifts at the hospital, in a COVID-free space.

This is sort of like Uber Eats….when you have family around.

Since she was admitted my sister and I have been trading off being with her since she was hospitalized (COVID restrictions means she can only ever have two visitors). That means that everyone else had to visit through the window. Amazingly she was put in essentially the ONE ROOM in the unit that opens up onto a courtyard so people could come to visit. We’d phone through, and they’d visit. Kind of had a lawyer-visiting-his-client-in-prison sort of feel to it. Except with more singing of hymns. And more laughing. And more family. And more smiles. And more singing. And laughing. And my 90-year old aunt throwing snowballs at my mom since there was snow overnight one time.

There have been LOTS of visits. Rows of cards, phone calls, and so many passed-on greetings have poured in, and continue to do so. Just today (her 21st day in the hospital) she got another flower arrangement and another card.

Unfortunately she has been moved from that room to another one, and the ability to visit is rather restricted. Although to be perfectly honest, I wouldn’t put it past my 70-90 year old aunts to try to scale up to somehow get access to this roof.