Sometimes I feel like the lone survivor of a Tsunami.
Like the person whose entire village was washed away by a tidal wave. The person who lost not only one of the people closest to her, but her whole community as well. The Red Cross relief volunteers come and bring supplies, they help rebuild, they provide support.
But they can’t replace the community.
They’re just not the same.
This past Thursday night I went to a Passover meal at my church. It was a wonderful experience, this group of Christians, clumsy in our attempt to honor and recreate a Jewish tradition, yet sincere in our desire to connect past with present. I’ve participated in Seder meals before, but this one was different. No, the meal wasn’t different. The ritual and tradition and order in which we partook of the symbolic foods weren’t different. But I was.
My whole world is different.
Parts remain the same – there are constants in my life – but so much of my world is different now. Often I can’t find things in my new house because everything’s in a different place and I can’t remember where I put them. And somehow the box with my favorite snuggly throw that I kept on my couch and the clock radio that goes on my nightstand didn’t make it here.
Everywhere I go I have to use Google maps to get there. Errands that used to take ten minutes now require an afternoon and are more aptly described as excursions, if not full blown adventures.
Friends who have held me while I’ve wept uncontrollably – the same ones who have laughed hysterically with me, who have walked through all kinds of pain with me before – are now three hours away, instead of a ten minute drive to their front porch. They’re still there. They didn’t really get washed away in the Tsunami. But sometimes it feels like they did.
My dad went to the Passover meal with me and it was sweet to experience that with him. But the chair to my right was empty. Its emptiness overwhelmed me at times and I couldn’t hold back the tears.
At one point during the meal, tradition calls for a basin of water to be passed around the table, with a towel, for everyone to wash his or her hands. I watched the basin at our table pass to a grandmother who held it for her grandson, a daughter holding it for her mother, a mother holding it for her daughter.
Then it was my turn. And I was sitting next to an empty chair.
That’s when one of the Red Cross volunteers in my life got up out of her chair and brought the basin to me as she sat down in the empty chair. My mother’s wedding ring glistened on my right hand as I dipped it slowly in and out of the water. As I dried my hands on the towel, and the tears spilled over my eyelids, she pressed her lips into my hair and whispered,
“I miss your mom sitting at this table with us, too.”
And so I found myself this past Thursday night, sharing a meal around a table with people who were virtually strangers a few months ago. They’re not from my village. They didn’t know my mom.
But they are.
And they do.
That’s the whole purpose of Passover – to remember the pain and suffering of others and our own, and to celebrate God’s faithfulness in the midst of that suffering.
My world is different, and it’s still the same.
Because of today.