The Wailing Wall

It is the tradition of our small-town school to have the last day of school be a day of saying 'goodbye'.  They construct a wall of graduating seniors, those leaving furlough of any grade, and those leaving finish of any grade.  And then the remaining students form a line, that goes through the 'wall' of those leaving and they say their goodbyes.

It takes hours, as some goodbyes are more emotional and take more time than others.

The kids don't really look forward to this day, because it is so emotional.  But I am glad that the school does it.

The school is setup with 2 campuses.  The first campus is K-6.  The second campus is middleschool and high school.

The community revolves around the school.  It is the reason we assemble here and headquarter our mission in this country here.  It is an academically high achieving school even though enrollment is relatively low.

The senior class is around 25 kids or so. They are small classes.  Many events happen at the school so the kids grow up watching the older students.  They go to the awards ceremonies, the sports tournaments, the graduation.  The kids here are way more plugged into their school at a young age than I ever was.  I can't imagine going to a graduation ceremony voluntarily when I was in 5th grade.  Yet Sydney and Calvin love to go to these things and see their friends get awards and do well.  

The volume level when people cheer for awards like Citizenship, will deafen you.  The enthusiasm for others to do well is overwhelming.

The kids not only become good friends with their classmates, but also the upper and lower classmates.

It is a small town mentality, and everyone knows everyone.  Everyone has a reputation,  and most likely has spent time in their house with them or their siblings.  It is a huge family atmosphere.

We pray for each other when someone breaks a leg or has a medical issue.  We bake cookies, we work side by side.  

"Close Knit " doesn't really describe it, it's more like, close-knit out of wool, and then the wool sweater gets wet, and shrinks, and gets even closer.

It's like that.  It's wet-wool-sweater-close.

And then people leave.  

Last furlough, Sydney had to say goodbye to dear friends who would not be here when she returned.
This furlough my son is saying goodbye to his 3 closest friends in the world.  1 leaves this week, 1 leaves next week, and 1 leaves in a year.  But Calvin leaves in 6 days, and won't be returning for a year, so it's all the same.  

That's a lot of goodbyes.

The Wailing wall tradition is hard, and time consuming.  Sometimes you are stuck in line next to someone you don't know well enough to spend 10 minutes saying goodbye to, but because someone is ahead in the line next to their dearest friend, things slow down.

It has its faults.  But I like it.  It forces the kids to face the emotion of transition.  

Everyone adult alive today can probably remember a very sad 'goodbye'.  Maybe it's your own high school graduation.  Imagine having the emotion of high school graduation, EVERY YEAR for your entire school career. (starting in Kindergarten).

It's rough on the kids.
and this year, to boot, life heaped on the loss of their grandfather.
And then, we throw them on a plane, and go to a different country….
while recovering from a nasty cold and cough....

Needless to say, after today's Wailing Wall, I sat the kids down and helped them process the emotions.  They both seemed sober and sad, but then mix in that school is over, and they're going home soon, and there's this hodgepodge of excitement, nervousness and sadness.

That's a LOT to ask of a kid.  But Calvin and Sydney have gone through much of it before.  We've had expertly trained people meet with them in the past and say they are emotionally capable of handing it well.  Their well being is our utmost concern. (this life has many UP sides that are GOOD for them, so it does balance out, and if you ask them, they do love it here.  Not all kids do, but so far, our kids do).

Kendal and I make sure to spend time with them and process.

The wailing wall, for all its flaws, is a neat tradition.  It provides closure.

Last night I was sitting there and asking my son how he felt about saying goodbye to his friends and he said 'we've spent a lot of time talking about this with each other dad.  And it's pretty sad.  But we know it's not the last time we'll see each other.  If it's the last time on earth, well then, we'll see them later in heaven.'

What 13 year old talks like that?  Has that depth of understanding of temporal earth existence?

I continue to think my kids have stronger character than I did at their age.  They impress me.

I thank all of you who pray for them for their transition stress.  I know you're out there praying for them and have for many years.  Perhaps that is why they tend to be able to cope with this lifestyle so well.

If you think about it, please add a few extra prayers.  Both Kendal and I are pretty sure that the moment they see Grandma Diana, the reality of losing Grandpa is going to hit them hard.  I'm glad that we will be heading to his memorial service soon after landing, so that they can spend some time grieving.