A to Z Challenge: G for Gone

the clock is still ticking...
the clock is still ticking…

G is for Gone

“Gone Without a Trace” is the name of a TV show of course, but I have my own list of people who have disappeared from my life (without my permission). They were important people and I really didn’t expect to never see or hear from them again, nor do I believe they did this purposely. It’s possible they are still around but I cannot find a trace of them anywhere. On the outside chance that any of the missing ever reads this, please know that I’m just wanting to know that you are still alive and I don’t mean to be a bother.

First among the missing is my one and only maid of honor at my wedding! I spent a year and a half with Karel Schmitt in nursing school. We were roommates and partners in escapades of all kinds. A couple years later, she was the only close friend who could make it to my Wisconsin wedding in January (nice timing huh?) Karel was a cute, peppy blond with an infectious smile and a wonderful sense of adventure. Maybe that’s why, shortly after, she also got married and according to the last letter I had from her, moved to some southeast Asia country where her husband’s family was starting a chicken farm. It seemed a little strange to me at the time. And the letters stopped. She was from St. Cloud, MN and had a twin whose name was Karen, I think. Granted, this is a pretty cold trail, but I have looked for her several times over the 40 years I’ve been married. She’s pretty much gone.

The second mystery is the disappearance of a beloved youth pastor and his wife. They were a young, intelligent couple who cared deeply for the people in our church and served the young people, including my own two girls, with a passion. That’s why when the church went through a very tumultuous time of change, they had to leave to preserve their emotional and spiritual health. We helped them load their furniture and clean their apartment before they moved. They gifted us with their grandfather clock. It still keeps good time and has a beautiful chime. (Okay, they said they had never liked it because it was so noisy – just not their style. But we like it.) It has to be wound every week so I think of them often. He was/is a handsome, part Asian man named Sui Shia and his wife was Christine. She was a budding journalist and writer. They both wanted to move someplace to further their education and Sui probably changed profession. He had many interests.

I am not a professional people hunter but I have the internet. That’s where most of my searching has been. Will I find them? Do they want to be found? Good questions.

 

Has anyone out there seen my people?

I Have Wondered Why It Happened…

We were a fairly young family with two daughters, ages 8 and 5. This was our first big move, leaving friends, family and a comfortable home in the north for unknown circumstances in a state as far south as one could go. Almost everything was unfamiliar. All our belongings were packed into two trailers for the trip. My parents helped us move by towing one trailer and we pulled the other one behind our van.  I remember the end of that long trip – I was driving in the early morning on the interstate and hit an armadillo. It was our introduction to Florida.

After our first day of resting in a motel, our Realtor helped us to a temporary furnished apartment near the famous Siesta Beach with it’s wide, white sand beaches.  We found a storage facility and unloaded pretty nearly all our earthly possessions into two rented rooms to await the new house I was sure we would find within a short time.  We weren’t wealthy but we were blessed with enough. Our “things” were dear to us, having either been received as wedding gifts or handed down as heirlooms from both sides of our families.  We had only some clothing and personal items with us in the apartment.

A week and a few days later we went back to the storage facility to get something we needed.  I walked down the second story corridor to the rooms at the end and tried to figure out why the door on one of our rooms was standing open. I looked in the empty room and tried to tell myself there had been a mistake. Was I somehow in the wrong building? the wrong corridor? What could this mean? I was in a state of repressed panic. I tried to remember all the things we had put in that room but it was impossible – there was too much.  My grandmother’s china cupboard, our best (only) dishes and flatware, our few pieces of art, clothing, my precious knitting machine I had worked so hard to buy… where was it all?

As the next hour unfolded we learned the truth about what had happened that was stranger than anything I could have made up.  It took a while to figure out because, at first, the owners of the storage facility were clueless and defensive.  Gradually putting it all together, this is how it came about.  Previous to our arrival, the now empty storage room had been rented to a customer who was delinquent in paying.  The manager had put an overlock on the room and notified the person that they had X number of days to pay or the contents of their room would belong to the storage facility.  Sometime before that deadline, the customer managed to get in the facility, remove the overlock and get all their belongings out without the manager knowing about it.

I entered the story.  Having been sent up to inspect the building where I was told there were two empty rooms, I saw two rooms, adjacent to each other, empty with the doors standing open.  They looked the right size and we paid for them and filled them up.  I don’t remember even looking at the numbers on the doors.  There were actually three empty rooms off that corridor, one  that I didn’t know about. It’s door was closed and I didn’t even notice it. Unfortunately that was one of the two rooms the manager thought we had rented. The third room, now full of our things, was the one that had belonged to the deliquent customer. And now the deadline had come.

The customary action when the account for a storage room is delinquent is to offer the contents for auction, hoping to recover the delinquent payments (think Storage Wars on reality TV). Our belongings were bought, sight unseen, by a business that accumulated goods from estate sales and storage units and then held a weekly auction on a Friday night.  We learned this on the Saturday after our things had been auctioned.  We were allowed to go through their warehouse and look for anything we recognized that hadn’t been sold.   We bought back the wooden highchair that had been mine as a child.   We found our family picture albums in their trash. There was nothing else. We were devastated.  Although they knew names and addresses of those they had sold to, they would not release any of that information to us.

We felt it was a shared mistake, and attempted to collect damages from the storage company.  Because we had no receipts for the missing items and no appraisals of the furniture and antiques, we were told that legal precedent would be against us.  We would be better off to accept a small settlement rather than take the matter to court and get nothing.  Our lawyer felt so sorry for us he did not charge us for his services.  That was the only overt blessing that I’ve ever been able to recognize concerning this event.

Did life go on? Yes, of course.  But there are differences since then.  I wish I could say that I learned never to make a quick decision, always to check every transaction thoroughly – but that hasn’t always been the case.  What did change was that I hold loosely to “things”, in order that they might not get a grip on my heart.  I’ve bought very little furniture, invested very little in things that might fit into a packing box, spent more time in Goodwill, second hand shops and garage sales for the things I do need.  I’m not sure I understand why God allowed this to happen at a time when so many other difficult things were also taking place, but He did.  I think I will understand it better some time in the future.  And I’ve never given up hope that some day, in some backwoods antique shop, I might see Grandma’s china cupboard again.  I’m just sayin’ it would be kind of like God to do that…

Comfort Zones

I’ve been out of mine so long today that I’m forgetting what it is like to be in my comfort zone.  Loud, loud music that is not culturally familiar, much heat and little water, crowds of  people, very few of whom I can communicate with, and those I can understand I still can’t communicate with because of deafness  due to loud, loud music.  It seems that our mission team is very well organized but  somehow we English speakers are not understanding enough to prepare ourselves for each step as it comes,  (Or  could it be that God knows we would be resistant/scared/freaked out if we understood ahead of time. Yeah, that’s it.) 

We are always being asked for the unexpected.  What is the matter with us that we don’t expect to be asked to talk, lead, teach, play games, and do  physical exams on sick villagers? The excitement is building as I contemplate having to see  patients and dispense remedies, depending on an interpreter   to know what  problems I’m supposed to address… in the heat, in the dirt, under a tent, amidst confusion.  We are called on to be flexible and all we can do is proceed.  This may turn out well, it may turn out not so well, but either way it will only last about three hours tomorrow.  I’m just sayin’ I’m thankful for that and I think I can do it.

Having Very Little

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These children have just been to Phnom Penh Central Market for their semi-annual shopping experience. They bought $5 to $10 worth of shoes, jeans, or a school bag for each of them. Most of them had never had this experience until they came to Asia’s Hope orphan homes several years ago.

In Cambodia, these are not the children who have very little. These children have a home that is clean, house parents who love them, a school to attend, food to eat and clothes to wear. They have lots of reasons to hope – including knowledge of a God who has a plan for their lives.

Today our team from the U.S. joined with university students from a Cambodian church to visit a nearby slum area and interact with the children there. These children had very little clothing, some had none, there were no parents watching over them, they themsleves were coated with filth and grime and pestilence as were their surroundings. The garbage and stench was unrelenting, everywhere. They came running for the gifts being handed out… a piece of bread, a pencil, a ball. There was not enough for them all and chaos ensued. These are the ones who have very little. If only they could be taken out, one by one, washed with clean water and fed, and then put someplace a little cleaner, safer and friendlier to find hope. I’m just sayin’, we have a real problem here, a real evil to work against.

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Lighthouse at Alki

lighthouse imagesToday, if it were not raining every few  minutes, I would be adventuring (new word, unlike venturing) out to see the lighthouse at Alki Point.  I am surprised that I have not seen it yet in my visits to Seattle, since I am a fan of lighthouses in general.  This one in particular is not far from my daughter’s house.  There is a steady flow of ferries, boats of all kinds, and barges going past the point and visible from the beach – an interesting waterway, to be sure.

I was in a shop at Pike Place Market last week, drawn to the watercolor scenes of Seattle that were in the windows.  The artist herself rummaged around and found several of Alki.  The lighthouse was among them and she recalled having to get special permission on the day she went to paint there, since it was closed to the public.  I am thinking of making that painting my own, my souvenir of Seattle.

You know, a lighthouse is a very hopeful thing.  It’s not like something that you want to rush toward, because in reality it’s telling you to beware of something dangerous.  But it does speak of firm ground somewhere, and of a concern that warns of danger.  It represents a commitment to be always on duty.  Someone is watching out for you and that is the hopeful part.