Saturday, August 21, 2010

Embrace the pain

What odd advice.

One would prefer to avoid the pain not embrace it.

Yet with regards to the loss of my parents I have to remember this sage advice: Embrace the memories that coming to Pittsburgh brings. Embrace the bitter sweetness of familiar streets, neighborhoods, shopping plazas, restaurants and churches.

It’s here in Pittsburgh with every visit home that I experience afresh the pain of the loss of my mother and father. Since in Honduras I live far from anyone who knew me before I was a college graduate, there’s no one to tell me stories of my parents and siblings (Brian and Kim) or share anecdotes of my childhood or youth. So while it’s a source of delight to hear those stories, there’s also a twinge of pain at the reminder of their passing. Thus the advice: Embrace both the joy and the pain.

My children’s ears perk up when someone says… Hey Lisa, remember when we…They don’t know anyone in Latin America that knew me as a child. In the same manner, my ears perk up when someone comes up to me at church and says: I remember when your mother taught at Women to Women at Memorial Park Church… Or your father had such a great sense of humor, we sang in the choir together…

Yesterday as I was driving by Pine Creek Plaza, I pulled in front of the Great Wall, one of my father’s favorite Chinese restaurants. My mind was flooded with memories of long, lingering meals and talking in Spanish to the waiters and busboys from El Salvador who worked there (he couldn't get over the irony of Salvadoreans working at a Chinese restaurant!). The kids just climbed onto my lap and we cried together-after which I did order take out!

It’s just that we live in such a different world than the one I was raised in. It’s good for my soul to re-visit my grief with every visit home to Pittsburgh, to pass by Memorial Park cemetery and put a flag on my dad’s grave for Independence Day, to rejoice when some woman tells me how God used my mother to bring her closer to the Lord and God’s Word, to eagerly reminisce with my parents' friends about the memories and hear them say: Your mother would be so proud of you, of your children… you look just like her… your father would have said this or that…

I have tried to embrace the pain these past three months, to lean in to it for just like it hurts to be reminded that my kids no longer have their grandparents to enjoy, I also relish the fact that God gave me a rich legacy in my parents and an abundant heritage in Pittsburgh of very supportive churches.

Valerie, Victor and I return to Honduras Sept. 1.