The past three years, my heart broke when someone in my family left us. They left again and again. They didn’t die. They disconnected. Didn’t come home at all the ritual gathering times. They stay where they are, in their small part of the world, and they rarely crack the door to speak to others.
I don’t talk about it much because I don’t know what needs to be said. And I certainly won’t name names. What good would it do?
I let the wound sit deep in my gut for the first two years since the separating began, and then God nudged and I gave up the anger. That was last October. I forgave. An ugly, wrangling forgiveness, God coaxing and me hanging on. But I let it go. And amazingly, they came out of the wilderness and sent a letter and pleaded for forgiveness only weeks after I decided to let it go.
I thought maybe all would be right again, but there was still work to do. I just didn’t know what it was. My family sits and scratches our heads, mostly over the hurt but still befuddled as to how we might woo our lost one home.
Over the past few months, I’ve seen the cord between us growing thinner and longer, and I’ve wondered if there was anything I could do. So now, I’m asking simply, “What’s my part, God?” But I feel like he answered before I even asked.
I need to build them a bridge. A bridge back to true family and no-strings-attached love and the people who remember all the stories that make up their one big story, from learning to walk to the silly way they used to say, “God loves you so muuuuuch. To the night much later when they held my drunken head over the toilet in mercy even though I’d never returned the favor.
I’m building a bridge back to the new family they always wanted but never had because we didn’t know how to do it. Didn’t know how to love well.
But when you lose something precious, you learn to love in a hurry. Or at least the invitation to love is there.
So I’m building that bridge, and it’s made of funny stories in emails and picture messages of my children and inside jokes that are maybe only mine to understand. Sometimes they respond with something that sounds like affection, but it’s so hard to pull love from a few letters on a screen. I can do more though, and maybe in the messages, I’ll include the prayers I pray, and I’ll try not to sound judgmental but always arms-wide-open because I don’t want to scare the little bird away.
But no matter all the good I do, the rescuing will always be God’s job. I’m just a bridge builder for them, and for anyone who is lost. For any who don’t know the wild love of Father God who loves more extravagantly than me. The Papa who already knows the end of the story and isn’t worried or pacing, just sad. The one who stands at the end of the drive every evening, his hand shielding his eyes from the setting sun, wishing, willing his children home. Just like we do for our one who is gone.
I hope they read this letter and know that I miss them, that these words are their path home, if they want to take it. But if not, they’ll still be loved the 900 miles and more.
Maybe someone you love is long gone, but if you can reach out, if it’s safe and you can forgive, then stretch out your arms and your words into the darkness.
And build a bridge.