This is the part where I cry because my family lives on three continents.
I cry because my son has just really grasped the concept of grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousin-friends, as he calls them, and now he has to say goodbye to them. All of them.
I cry because my niece is about to take her first steps and celebrate her first birthday and those are more landmark moments that I won’t be around for.
And I cry because talking to my mom requires us both to have decent Internet connections in the countries we’re in.
This is the part where I cry because I just took my kids to their last playground and park for two years.
I cry because my son just discovered firemen and mailmen and is constantly on the lookout for them, but won’t see any in Dakar.
I cry because they now ask for things like blueberries, peaches, boxes of raisins, granola bars and string cheese, but starting tomorrow these are off the table.
And I cry because trampoline parks, libraries and their story times, children’s museums, kids’ meals served in clean high chairs next to an air-conditioned play area at fast-food restaurants have all been wonderful beyond words.
This is the part where I cry because there won’t be any more family bike rides along the Greenway, pizza picnics overlooking the Smoky Mountains (or the presence of any mountains anywhere), hikes along trails, cookouts at the lake or drives through Cades Cove with the top down.
I cry because we are headed back to where daily tasks are more complex and more challenging and more time-consuming. Where getting a drink of water doesn’t mean just turning on the tap, getting cash back isn’t an option, there are no drive-thrus or express lanes.
And I cry because it’s been two months and I haven’t seen a single child begging on the street.
This is the part where I cry because I just took my last real bath and there will be no more glorious water pressure for showers.
I cry because I have loved sleeping in a temperature-controlled environment with the assurance that the electricity will stay on to maintain it.
This is the part where I cry because today a mosquito bite means an itch but tomorrow it could mean malaria.
I cry because in eight weeks this house accumulated less dust than our apartment in Dakar does in a few days – or one hour of dust storm.
I cry because all summer I have enjoyed every rain shower and storm without running for towels or the floor squeegee, wondering whose houses are flooding this time.
And I cry because I’ve run my last loads in the super silent dishwasher and gigantic washing machine – again, without fear of a power cut mid cycle.
This is the part where I cry.
But to, “Joy comes in the morning,” I cling.
Truly there are many blessings in my life right now, but in this moment I need to grieve these things above before I move on. I know several people who are crying through heart-wrenching struggles and losses that are much greater than what I am going through. MS, PTG, JB, GB and CB – our hearts and our prayers are with you.