Sacred Goodbyes

A lot has happened lately.  There’s a thousand little stories to pick from.  My friends leaving.  New ones coming to visit.  Glasses being distributed left and right.  Emails that show up with exciting or wonderful news.  Emails that show up that cause you to take a step back and take a few, slow and deep breaths.  I wish I could dip into every one of those stories and give you little pieces of all of them, since I’ve been sort of absent from the blog for awhile, but I think I’ll just find one story and stick with that:

Hope Montgomery was here the last few weeks, and I got a chance to show her around my village and put a really clear image with lots of names of places and people I had referenced in a thousand conversations.  I’m not sure if there’s anything more fulfilling than bringing a story to life like that when you can share something tangible that before was just words.  Every moment, from weaving through a little olive grove to watching a mountain be painted by the sunset to little sacred conversations in the windowsill of a hotel room to eating tuna sandwiches behind a waterfall to climbing on top of an ancient Roman ruin to watch a city’s veins be pumped with the ebb-and-flow of a never-ending chaotic liveliness….  all of that… it all just makes you feel painfully awake and aware of everything around you.  I think that’s something that Hope and I had both been searching for, you know, that moment where you strip yourself of all the complexities of life and find that in the simplest of things, when life is its most raw, we are more one with ourselves, more alive than ever.  That’s God to me.  I think Morocco has been that for me in a powerful way, constantly watching the order out of chaos that moves like a cycle, a little Islamic samsara, if you will, birthing and deathing us from one moment to the next.  It can just get tough when those births and deaths seem to come in quick successions and overwhelm you.

On her last day in Morocco, there was a protest of 50,000 people in Casablanca, and I’m pretty sure I know what they were pissed about for once.  Hope leaving.  On the train, we split a couple of oranges and some cookies, but the train was running late, and as it pulled into the airport, her flight was scheduled for take off in 30 minutes.  We had to stop at a  bank to pull out some money with her card.  I took a gander at the board and told her to go ahead to Terminal 1 to check in, that I would catch up.  But I ended up stuck behind some French couple, and in five short minutes, I’d lost Hope.  At Terminal 1, I couldn’t find her anywhere.  I ran (literally) between Terminal 1 check-in and Terminal 1 International departures.  I kept saying out loud, “Where is she?  She’s going to miss her flight.  This is crazy.”  I was absolutely frantic.  10 minutes passed.  Her flight was leaving in four minutes.  I walked to an info desk, something I should’ve done ten minutes before, only to discover that her flight was leaving from Terminal 2.  I ran.  As fast as I could.  But when I got there, it was too late.  No Hope.  I paced back-and-forth and asked a guard if he’d seen a girl in blue, and he retorted that everyone was wearing blue.  I said something awful to him in Arabic and should’ve been arrested on the spot, but I guess when you’re crazy kind of frantic, you get away with more.  I did the same thing to a lady at an info desk who refused to help me contact Hope or make sure she’d made her flight.  As the feeling sunk in that Hope was gone, I kept repeating out loud, “Not like this.  It wasn’t supposed to be like this.  This is so wrong.”  I walked toward a front desk to see if I could purchase a ticket to Paris.  Hope had a nine-hour layover.  There was a chance I could get there to say goodbye on a later flight.  No passport.  It was in the orchard, eight hours away.

I pulled out my phone and dialed, but before my friend Sairah answered, I was already in tears.  I bawled to Sairah on the phone that I didn’t get to say goodbye to my best friend, that I’d been robbed of my sacred goodbye, while I crouched in the corner of the marble floor with my head in my hands sniffling.  There was a chance Hope had missed the flight, so I waited.  I waited for an hour, and then another.  That was when I decided the best thing to do was to get back to Rabat and check the computer to see if Hope had made it to an internet kiosk.

When I got back to the hotel, everything was eerily right where we’d left it, my laptop on one of the beds, cookie wrappers on a table, the windows wide open to the street below with the view of the Parliament building across the street, and the curtain flapping lightly against the wind.  I had a text from Hope’s mom saying she’d called, and a few minutes later, Hope popped up online.  Her story wasn’t all that different from mine.  She’d been told to go to Terminal 2 and kept looking for me.  She’d gone through the check-in and then the gate entrance and realized I couldn’t get there.  She’d tried to double-back but the guard stopped her.  She’d tried to message me on some guy’s smart phone, but he turned her away harshly.  Like me, she’d found her way to a frantic chaos and welled up in the same tears feeling so wrong about something that was supposed to be as good as the whole two weeks had been.

You could say, I’m still recovering from all of that.  It was all like a Wes Anderson film gone wrong.  And yet, at the same time, it all just goes back to what I was saying earlier, that liveliness that grips you birthing you from one moment to the next.  It was like we were jolted off of the wheel, that for half a moment, the cycle hiccuped, and all those past lives and even the future ones met in one place and in one time.  I’ve always thought of Hope as an old soul like me, so when the goodbye didn’t happen, the only comfort I could find was in knowing that even when the cycle hiccups, it keeps moving.  More births.  More deaths.  More sacred moments.  More waves slamming into the beach as they’re prone to do.  You can’t stop it, life.  It keeps coming.  And pain and beauty mix together and find an agreement or a resolution or a balance, just a balance, somewhere in all that mess.   I think that balance is where you find what’s most sacred, where you figure out what’s truly “right,” if there is such a thing.  But all that endless going and coming, and I could see Hope in a thousand lives that had passed and in a thousand lives that were to come.  Not that many people fit into my life that way but the ones that do are the ones I learn to cherish and love the most.

So yeah, I guess you could say a lot has happened lately.  But no matter how good or bad, it’s all been sacred.  And that’s always something to write home about.

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