A Return to the Town Where Time Does Not Reside

“When you remember me, it means that you have carried something of who I am with you, that I have left some mark of who I am on who you are. It means that you can summon me back to your mind even though countless years and miles may stand between us. It means that if we meet again, you will know me. It means that even after I die, you can still see my face and hear my voice and speak to me in your heart.

 For as long as you remember me, I am never entirely lost. When I’m feeling most ghost-like, it is your remembering me that helps remind me that I actually exist. When I’m feeling sad, it’s my consolation. When I’m feeling happy, it’s part of why I feel that way.

 If you forget me, one of the ways I remember who I am will be gone. If you forget, part of who I am will be gone. “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” the good thief said from his cross (Luke 23:42). There are perhaps no more human words in all of Scripture, no prayer we can pray so well. ”

–Frederick Buechner

 It has now been a week since I boarded a plane at Kotoka Airport and pressed my face against the airplane window until I could not see the lights of Accra anymore. I am not particularly fond of airports and Kotoka falls near the bottom of the list of comfortable journey facilitators. Its cold walls, though, seemed the perfect setting for the rushed send-off of a shared bottle of Coca-cola and a quick kiss and hug before the waves of travelers pushing against a small door leading to immigration swallowed me whole. Even the inevitable tears felt rushed by angry security workers. But unhappy traveling aside, here I am snuggled on the living room couch of my family home, trying to put words to the feeling of beginning again.

I have been met on all sides by the familiar questions about how it feels to be back, am I going through culture shock, and if I miss being there. I think some of my friends have been surprised at how easy I find it to talk about adjusting back to life here or wrapping up things in Ghana with my project. The fact is that it has not been difficult. My close friend Matt thinks that some might view how he and I live as being emotionally detached. I could see how one could come to that conclusion. But it would not be anywhere near the truth. I love and care very easily and very deeply. However, I also treasure the curious beauty of an ending, as my friend Roxanne so beautifully blogged. I savored the last days in Ghana with visits to my favorite parts of the city, eating all my favorite foods, and spending as much time as possible with loved ones. I savored and I memorized and I remembered.

I have always found a special truth in Buechner’s words about remembrance. I especially love the part where he writes, “For as long as you remember me, I am never entirely lost.” When I remember the people who have touched my life, I feel as though they will never be lost to me. I hope they feel the same way about me. I want to believe that I have left my mark on my patch of red dirt in Ghana. Even if just for a little while, I want to believe that my fingerprints have imprinted the hearts of those I met. My students kept repeating to me that they would never forget me. I hope they never forget what they learned. And I know that I could never forget them, because in that small classroom all 38 of us embarked on a new journey together, one in which I hope will last a lifetime. I don’t think forgetfulness can easily take over, though. Anytime they act out their lessons, they will be remembering me.

Sometimes when I reflect at the end of a journey, I come to the conclusion that I am the sum of all the places I have been. I think that if I forget the memories created there, that like Buechner wrote, part of who I am would also be forgotten. So I am treasuring the start and the end of my time in Ghana, and memorizing the details of a fellowship year filled with love and learning. And there were times that it was so hard and nothing like what I imagined it would be, but as I learned to ride the rollercoaster, there came a time when I could throw my hands up and smile in anticipation of the drop ahead.

But I also have something else to thank for this ability to seamlessly transition from one place to another. The other factor is that I returned to Belleville, my home, and a town where time does not reside. Here, time freezes and I am able to soak in the sun of the countryside and breathe the comfort and relaxation into every pore of my body. It would be impossible to not embrace this bubble of rejuvenation. And I am grateful to it once again. I know it will massage and comfort me as my body and my mind begin to unpack everything from the last journey. And I am sure some writing and photos will come forth as well.

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