The sky slowly begins to dim and turn shades of blue until blue is black and black is as black can be. We live on the edge of a small village in rural Northern Thailand and when evening comes the sky is brilliantly full of the shine from heaven – unless it’s rainy season, of course, and then the clouds block the brilliance from physical sight but not from imagination.
Cicadas hum for a long phrase and then stop. Hum and stop. Our dog returns home from his daytime adventures in the rice fields and plops himself on our front step. He’s ready for his self-appointed nighttime duty of keeping watch. A tukae lizard calls out. Our neighbours are quiet and have either gone to bed – it IS seven thirty already – or are busy watching the new Thai soap opera series or Thailand’s The Voice.
Day is done. Nighttime is coming. I’m here in this middle space of neither here nor there.
We are transitioning from our home in Thailand to my homeland of Canada. My daughters claim they’re “not Thai but English” – this is where the language and culture and nationality lines blur. I remind them gently that they are both Thai AND Canadian, despite their protests.
It’s a hard concept to grasp and I feel confused about those blurring lines in my own identity. I can never be fully Thai but I’m not the same Canadian who left thirteen years ago for the mission field. Does it really matter though? My true citizenship is in heaven, I know. But between here and there, what does it look like to live?
We dream of what life will be like in Canada. We plan, we brainstorm, we pray, we hope and we eventually give it all over to God. We submit and surrender what our future will look like.
Like the brilliance beyond the obscuring clouds, the future holds something so beautiful that we can’t even begin to fathom it. We trust and believe in His goodness to both clear the clouds and carry us through. We surrender our wills for His which is better than we can ask or imagine.
“How long will you be gone?” my husband’s grandmother, Uay, asks days later in Northern Thai. She pauses and wipes tears away from her eyes. She wasn’t looking at me when she asked but we were sitting next to each other on the bamboo platform, watching my youngest twirl with delight in her “princess” dress. Uay laughs as her great-granddaughter dances around, playing games with her shadow. “About three years,” I reply. She wipes her eyes again and she holds my hand as we sit in silence.
Transitioning means leaving where you were in order to arrive somewhere else. The bridge linking those two places, whether physical or cognitive, is complicated. How can one cross while their partner lags behind? How can one cross while the pull to remain is strong? How can one cross while the crossing pains a loved one?
My husband assures Uay that we will be able to video call her and that her son or one of her grandsons will certainly help. “Oh, I’m not good at that kind of thing,” she says, brushing off the attempt to console the upcoming loss.
The only way across is through one step at a time. We don’t have to jump across, only to land in the water, but simply put one foot in front of the other and walk.
“Let’s go inside,” Uay finally says, putting her cane in position to help her stand. Slowly, we begin to walk together.