Thursday, January 5, 2012
Arrivals and Departures
I love airports. And many years ago, before having children and 9/11 changed everything, it was my favourite place to go. Twice a month I would drop my husband off at the departure lounge for his business trip, and then I would spend an hour or two checking out the shops. And also watch the people.
The airport is a most fascinating place. I really don't think there is anywhere else quite like it. I mean what hasn't happened at the airport? There's crime, mystery, drama, suspense, and hundreds of people, often in a highly emotional state. I'm sure there's been death and perhaps even an birth or two (although I haven't seen it). It's like an ongoing reality show.
I soon found though, that I preferred to spend more time in arrivals than in departures.
Departures always seemed so sad, So final. People going home, going away, running away, leaving someone, saying goodbye.
But Arrivals...ah, now there's a happy place. The people coming through the gates in the arrival lounge , no matter how tired, or how long a journey, were just so glad to have reached their destination. And then, when they made eye contact and connected with their loved ones, the reunion was inevitably sweet.
So imagine my delight when three weeks ago I got to go to my favourtie place, to meet two of my favourite people. My mom and dad.
My parents were coming to spend Christmas with me. I was so excited about this that for once in my life, I actually arrived half an hour early at the airport. Their flight was delayed by 45 minutes so I had time to kill. Bursting with anticipation I paced up and down. I was way too anxious to read a magazine, so instead I did what I always do in arrivals. I watched the people.
Because I was already brimming with emotion, I shed a tear each time I saw a traveller greeted by family or friends. By the time I saw my parents, I couldn't hold back. The levee burst and I wept openly. It was the most wonderful reunion.
Three weeks later, I made the same journey to the same place. However my experience was remarkably different. I was still very emotional, but this time instead of saying hello, I was saying goodbye. I was overwhelmed with sadness as I watched my mom being taken through airport security in a wheelchair. This was the hardest goodbye ever.
I miss them so much. Nothing prepared me for the emptiness I feel without them.
But here's the irony. In arrivals I did three things. I hugged my parents, I kissed them and I cried. In departures, again I hugged them, I kissed them and I cried. The same act, in the same place, but the experience was poles apart.
Arrivals and departures are different.
And life is just one long series of arrivals and departures. They are played out every hour of every day. Much like at the airport.
Most of us arrive (are born) into a family where we are expected, anticipated and loved. Upon our arrival there is fanfare and tears of joy and happiness. And when we depart there is a sense of loss and sadness. Tears of grief and sorrow.
And it's not just life and death. Our children arrive in kindergarten and then depart for university, leaving us with aching hearts and an empty nest. Seasons come and go. So do relationships, pets, events, activites and jobs. A new year has just arrived and in 360 days or so it will depart. Arrivals and departures, comings and goings, to-ing and fro-ing, hatch and dispatch.
We do it all the time, yet still find it hard to say goodbye.
I believe that one of the reasons saying goodbye is so hard, is that we were never meant to.
"God has placed eternity in the hearts of men..." Eccles 3 vs 11.
Look at all we do to extend our lives a little longer. Diet, exercise, pills, anti-aging lotions and potions. The truth is we just don't want to go. None of us. Ever. And yet one day... we all will.
I like to think that maybe all of these arrivals and departures are somehow preparing us, not for death, but for the afterlife.
I certainly take comfort from the fact that one day there will be a Heaven. Eternal life. No more goodbyes.
As a believer I'm awaiting my final departure. It will be heralded by the arrival of Jesus. "The trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised..." 1 Corin 15 vs 52. But since I don't know when that will be, I guess here is where you will find me. Waiting.
So I suppose I may as well plan another departure. But it won't be a sad one. I'm looking forward to the day when I can go to Lester B. Pearson airport departure lounge, to take an outbound flight YYZ to MAN. And when I land 7 hours later, I'll see the faces of my mom and dad waiting for me in arrivals.
I can hardly wait.