Goodbyes Break My Heart

Unfortunately, all good things come to an end. I had been preparing myself for departing Swazi, but it still was the most difficult thing I’ve done. It was such a terrible feeling to be the source of so much pain for others. Many of my students asked me to stay. They asked me to postpone my departure. A few even told me they were angry I was leaving. No matter how much I had prepared them and told them why I was leaving, when the day came, they weren’t okay with it. (And I was having a hard time with it, too.)

I left on Tuesday morning, but I was able to go to school first to say goodbye. All the students sang for me at assembly, and the head teacher and director presented me with a gift: a beautiful wooden plate for my wall with “Swaziland” engraved into it. After assembly, I spoke to my class, and one of the boys gave a mini speech to thank me and bless me. Then I took each student out individually to pray for them and say good bye. Close to the end, the head teacher called all the girls out and asked me if I could go with them into the office room because they wouldn’t stop crying.

So I brought the girls together into a group hug. And instead of consoling them through their sobs, I started crying, too. (Not quite what the head teacher was hoping for.) So we just hugged and cried together for awhile, and then I choked out some words and a prayer. I finished saying good bye and told them, “Just because I am leaving doesn’t mean my love is leaving. My love is from the Lord, so it’s never gone because He NEVER leaves you.” It still didn’t make it easier. 🙁

The only thing that made my goodbye easier was a divine gift, a miracle, I had prayed for… yes, it has to do with Tenele.

After that amazing day spent with Tenele, she was supposed to meet the following day and didn’t. My friend was going to take her to church, and then I had a good bye cook-out on Sunday that Tenele said she was coming to. She never came. Then on Monday (I was leaving the following day) Ayanda came to the house after school.

“Where’s Tenele?” I asked.
“Oh…” her face fell. “She told me to tell you that she’s leaving today and will be gone all week.”
“What? Leaving? Where?” I immediately started tearing up. I couldn’t bare to think that I would have to leave without saying goodbye to Tenele. And even though Ayanda tried to explain the situation to me, I couldn’t really hear it because I was crushed that Tenele wasn’t coming to say goodbye, and I had to leave that next morning. I started praying, “Please, God, please…if I have found any favor in your eyes…please give me the gift of seeing Tenele one more time so I can say goodbye.”

But for some reason, I couldn’t believe her story that Tenele would really leave. So I set out that night to see for myself if Tenele was really there. As we got to her house, there were two other women outside. Ayanda spoke in SiSwati with them, but they all knew who I was looking for without me saying. Tenele wasn’t there. But according to the woman, she was still around. We waited, as they all spoke in SiSwati. Finally, Tenele, realizing I wasn’t going to leave immediately, came out of hiding. We hugged but she pretended like she wasn’t happy to see me. Then she yelled at Ayanda in SiSwati and Ayanda turned to me and said, “Mary-Kate, I told you about Tenele, right? Tell Tenele that I told you she was going to be gone.”

I looked at Tenele and said, “Ayanda told me what you said, but I had to see for myself,” I paused and continued, “You can’t leave without saying goodbye!” and I hugged her. She smiled but shied away a little bit. I was so happy to see her, but my heart also hurt for her, because the reason she told Ayanda to tell me she was gone was because she didn’t want to say goodbye. Goodbyes are painful, and she didn’t want to do that. Still, there was something special I had for Tenele at the house and I wanted to give it to her. “Tenele, I am leaving tomorrow morning, but I want to see you. Will you please come tomorrow morning with Ayanda to say goodbye? I have something I want to give you. (I had gifts for all the kids.) But…if you don’t come, I guess I’ll have to give it to Ayanda.” 🙂

Ayanda laughed and Tenele shook her head. “Mary-Kate, I’m coming. I’ll come with Ayanda.”
Even though she sounded convincing, I wasn’t sure if she would really show up or not. But I prayed and prayed she would.

Tuesday morning came. After I said my goodbyes at school, I came back to the house to finish packing. The girls were supposed to come by at 9. They didn’t show. At about 9:30 I heard Alex (another volunteer) yell my name. “MK! MK! I have a present for you!”

I ran outside to find Ayanda and Tenele waiting. It felt like a miracle! I was so happy, I embraced them eagerly, but they turned to each other and Tenele said in SiSwati, “Mary-Kate uyajabulani” (something like that) which meant, “Mary-Kate is happy.” They thought I was happy to leave. I picked up on the SiSwati and said, “No, no, no. I am not happy to leave. I am just SO happy that you are here right now.”

Johannes also joined a few minutes later, so my three kids helped me finish packing. Tenele was the first to cry. (Sigh) Ah, it was so hard. But they stayed with me all the way until I got into the car to leave. I held Tenele for awhile as we sobbed together. Johannes kept it together and didn’t shed a tear. Ayanda pouted and angrily refused to hug me…but eventually gave in. The other volunteers and I exchanged lots of tears as we said goodbye. I left the kids in their hands and asked them to comfort them.

As I drove away, I cried harder, but my spirit was filled with the gift of miracles…of seeing Tenele one more time…and of remembering that everyday with my kids is nothing short of miracles in the making.

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