A Time for Goodbye {Book Club}

I really hate goodbyes. After reading Amy’s fantastic post, I realized that I am a pre-griever. I spend the days and hours leading up to a departure, whether my own or someone else’s, in tears and overcome with memories. When the goodbye finally happens, when I give the last hug and cry my way through security, or watch the car drive off, I can normally feel stability returning even if the pain lingers.

This last section of Monique and the Mango Rains is full of goodbyes. Kris, the author, describes in detail her last day in Namposella as she and her fiancé John end their term with the Peace Corps in Mali. Even before the sun is up, the village leaders are at her door. They go through a series of formal goodbyes, giving blessings to Kris and John. I thought this was beautiful, giving space for parting well. In Cambodia, far too often the goodbyes are rushed to non-existent. A quick “Okay, I’m going now” can be all the words spoken even when the separation might be significant. I want to rush as well when it feels too painful or I’m not sure I have the right words, or fear even if I did have the words I would dissolve into tears. I’m not gifted with the ability to continue speaking when the tears start.

And then Monique. Wonderful Monique! The first time I read this book, I couldn’t believe that she died, and that this wasn’t just a made-up story. Kris and her husband John go back to Mali and back to the village of Namposella. They walk the old paths, see faces weathered by the years but still familiar. They listen to the stories from different perspectives of how Monique died, what her life was like in the final days of her pregnancy. I appreciated that they lingered, talking with friends and adopted family, not running away from death and grief.

I would imagine that we could each tell stories of losing dear friends overseas, or navigating the unwanted journey of saying goodbye to loved ones from far away. Have you found ways to walk the familiar paths to honor those who have died? How are goodbyes handled in the cultures where you are serving?

Thank you for joining in the conversation as we read through Monique and the Mango Rains! I hope that you have found your place in the story and discussions. What are your thoughts as we wrap up this book?

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We are so grateful for the opportunity to have Abbie Smith with us this month to share about her book Stretchmarks I Wasn’t Expecting! She has graciously been allowing us to give away one book each week, and this week is no different. Here’s Abbie to share another gem from her story.

Sarah: How can this book minister to and connect with women who have never birthed a baby?

Abbie: Honestly, I’ve been surprised by the amount of feedback I’ve received from childless (and single) readers. I think this must have to do with the bulk of the pages being about so much more than literal stretch marks, or “moving a watermelon through a bean hole” (as chapter 7 blatantly puts it). It seems to be more about beauty and spiritual marks of growth and our shared “processes of becoming,” as females and daughters of God. I’ve been similarly surprised by the amount of feedback I’ve received from women who aren’t followers of Jesus (my own mother and sister included). In their words, they simply, “don’t read the God parts.” From my perspective though, it’s been eye-opening to realize how much of our journey as women overlap, whether generationally, vocationally, or culturally. In this sense, I’ve been incredibly humbled to have unbelievers connecting with this book (clearly written from the lens of a Christ follower), and pray it ministers deep and wide to all who find themselves reading it.

Connect with Abbie on InstagramFacebook or her website!

Post a comment with your insights into Monique and the Mango Rains, how God has ministered to your heart in the midst of goodbyes, or a comment or question for Abbie. One of you will be chosen to win either an electronic or physical copy (your choice!) of Abbie’s book! Just add your comment before Sunday, September 30th to be entered to win.

*When you purchase Stretchmarks, 50% of proceeds go to “We Welcome Refugees”. 

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Next week we start our Fall book: Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life by Tish Harrison Warren. Amy will intro the book and we will “Get to Know Rachel” and her reading habits and recommendations. Here’s the reading schedule for Liturgy of the Ordinary:

October 9: Chapter 1, October 16: Chapters 2-3, October 23: Chapter 4, October 30: Chapters 5-6, November 6: Chapters 7-8, November 13: Chapter 9, November 20: Chapter 10, November 27: Chapter 11

13 Comments

  1. Amy Young September 25, 2018

    I wasn’t able to get to this book until last week and then reread it in several settings. In the Kindle version do you have the pictures of Kris and Monique? In the physical book, what stood out to me was how young they both looked :). And the challenging situations they faced.

    We all know I’m a cryer :)! and I also hate goodbyes. But as I have slowly gotten better at turning towards and not away from grief — the truth that Brene Brown discovered in her research — the if we numb, push down, ignore the losses and sadness, we also numb the joys and fun life has to offer. (Still, I HATE goodbyes!)

    1. Sarah September 26, 2018

      I love the reminder to turn towards, Amy! Not to shy away from grief or stuff it, because then too often I turn away from close relationships or the good things too. Glad you got to re-read the book!

    2. Michelle Kiprop September 28, 2018

      Yup we do get the pictures in the Kindle version!

  2. Lindsey September 26, 2018

    Several things struck me here at the end.
    First, she explained that she hated saying goodbye to the people and the lifestyle. Baths under the stars, people that have time to sit with you and invite you in for dinner, and magical moonlit walks. But the reality was that her village living really wasn’t sustainable if they wanted to maintain the health they were used to in the wests, she said they were literally sick half the time. This helps me see the reality of village living: the beauty and the harshness and hard living all wrapped up into one.
    Secondly, this is a culture that is okay with death. It is expected, and I feel they have a profound sense of God being in control, so much so, that sometimes, the health care workers dont do their basic do-diligence to help prevent things from happening. But Monique was tired and weak, and no one was surprised or shocked by her passing. Kris, like a good westerner, wanted to know why?! And I would probably respond the exact same way, but village and workers were more at peace with death as a regular part of life “God is the ony master of this earth. He does to the earth and the inhabitants what he wants.” i do think in the west because of how advanced we are, we think we are in control… that we can control everything. That we can play God. But the reality is that death comes to us all, and as Christians, we have so much to look forward to in death— totally in the arms of the Father. But I know my ideas of death is influenced more by my Western culture then the Bible or God. As an ICU nurse, I hated keeping people alive, that clearly wanted to be free of their earthly bodies…. but we hold on so tightly to this life, thinking we can control everything….
    Lastly, I loved the true caring compassionate friendship between Monique and Kris and I pray I have this love for the people I am priveledged in serving… they have so much to offer me… as much as I have to give in return, and I know it is hard to communicate the gospel in a real way without love, without love, we sound like clanging cymbals, love to you all sisters, as you go throughout your week. May God bless you richly and give you a profound sense of His control and sovereignty on this earth.

    1. Sarah C Hilkemann September 26, 2018

      Lindsey, I love these insights! I’m so glad you read along and joined in the conversation!!

      I know I can romanticize certain situations or only focus on the good (or the bad) sometimes. Like you said, there were definitely things Kris and her now-husband loved about living in the village, but they also chose to not re-enlist for their Peace Corps assignment. There were lots of challenges and hardships too. I think it is good to hold onto both of those things and not lose either.

    2. Abbie Smith September 26, 2018

      Such rich reflections here, Lindsey. Thank you for taking the time to share them!

  3. Spring September 27, 2018

    I believe I am a post griever. and a in the midst of griver.. Maybe I just cry a lot!

    The saddest part of the book is the loss of Monique. That and Chris’s realization that she should have gone back sooner.

    I really appreciated Chris’ curiosity. I am a lot like her I want to know the “why’s” . I also liked the process in which she came to accept Monique’s death.

    I spent a year intership in Mexico 20 years ago. Taking my family back to where I was changed was important to me. They didn’t have the same experience as me. They only got a small taste (a day and 1/2). I am so thankful they were able to see the part of my world that had such a big impact on me. I hope Chris and John were able to bring their sons on their next visit.

  4. Michelle Kiprop September 28, 2018

    I truly enjoyed this book. There was so much that I could relate to even though my work is on the other side of the continent. The acceptance of death is much the same. Not to say that there is not grieving. The grieving can be gut-wrenching. Seeing women fainting and even going into catatonic states at funerals is not unusual here. But there is also an acceptance. You don’t hear the questions of “why?” And I have never had a family accuse me of not having done enough for a loved one who died. In fact, I’ve been given formal and informal thanks from families who have lost patients. Usually coming back to thank me for the tender care I gave and for trying. But no attitude of “Why did this happen? Why didn’t you save him/her?”

    I’m sure that many of us felt something on a visceral level when reading about the goodbyes. In this life we live, we will always be saying goodbye to people and to places. One of the things I love about the culture here is the honoring of welcomes and goodbyes. I’m married to a national and so he takes the welcome and goodbyes of our teams and volunteers very seriously. This month we had two very short visits from American volunteers. One set of visitors was only with us for three days. But my husband insisted on setting up the chairs, bringing all of our staff to gather around, and having a formal time of speeches and goodbyes as they left. At times it can be frustrating, but I love that in this culture everyone’s voice is given honor. The meeting doesn’t end until everyone who felt they needed to say something has had time to speak. I love that honor and respect.

    I’m going to have to sit out the next book as I’m headed into a crazy three months. But I hope to pop back in again in January!

  5. Paulette Cross September 30, 2018

    Not sure anyone will read a comment almost a week after the discussion (busy week and computer issues) but even though it’s late, still wanted to say thank you for that link to the post about pre-grieving, Sarah! And thank you for writing it, Amy! Reading this was super helpful in understanding why I act the way I do, as a pre-griever. My mom and sister are too, so that is a huge blessing each time we prepare for long separations because we “get” each other. One of my brothers is mostly a pre-griever as well. Two or three of my brothers, on the other hand, tend to think I’m just an “overly-stressed” person. Your post provided some great information for explaining things better next time around. 🙂 I tried to explain last time, but didn’t always have the words for it, or thought it sounded kind of crazy. For example, while true that I act stressed in the last weeks before saying good-bye, this reaction it is really much less about the big to-do list, and much more about things like…the last game night, your last high soccer game I’ll ever get to watch, going to miss the next 3 Christmas Eve services, last summer family events, last winter family event, and I love you guys and I’m gonna miss you like crazy.

    And you other pre-grievers out there can just imagine the rest, and how many hours I spend crying – weeks before leaving! And it’s really not stress; it’s grief. This topic is also a great idea for a conversation starter with my new coworker, because it seems like knowing how we each handle grief would be good for our relationship, as we learn to support each other through all the transitions of cross-cultural life.

    I still have not seen how death is handled in the culture of the tiny village where I live, although based on the reaction when someone almost died (turned out to be a diabetic coma), of waking the entire village up and going to the person’s house, with lots of tears and agitation, it seems likely the grieving would be pretty intense. Also based on things they’ve said, I don’t think they tend to accept death in the way Monique’s culture did, as the will of God, or just how things were.

    The brevity of life impacted me not only through our book this week, but also when someone in our agency went to be with Jesus on Tuesday. Playing soccer with the kids he ministered to, odd pains, massive heart attack, and just gone, leaving behind a wife and 5 children. I don´t know this family well as they serve on another part of our field, but saw them at conferences, and as part of the same “agency family”, our team here is in shock, hearts grieved for this precious family who, in the midst of serving Jesus, suddenly faced a good-bye they didn’t even see coming, with many hard days ahead.

    There is a wonderful difference between the goodbyes forced upon Kris and John and Monique’s family and village, and for us though. For them it was really the end. Goodbye without hope. While this M family is holding onto the truth in the midst of tears; that while we still grieve over saying good-bye to coworkers or family members, if they know Jesus (not all of my family does yet), we don’t grieve in the same way as those who have no hope. We will see them again. Because Jesus lives, we can point to His empty grave and declare that death has been swallowed up in victory, and that those who died in Christ are with Him, and more alive than ever! We don’t have to hope they have a “cool resting place” or that God will treat them well and have favor on them.

    And whether or not our work directly combats physical death (those of you who work in healthcare ministry, for example), we are all engaged in this cross-cultural adventure in Jesus’ name. On many fronts and in many ways we labor to bring about spiritual life, participating in Jesus’ work to make His love and glory known among the nations and bring life to the dying.

    1. Michelle Kiprop October 1, 2018

      I saw and appreciated your comment. Beautiful thoughts on final goodbyes and hope in Christ. Sending hugs from my corner of the world to yours!

      1. Paulette October 1, 2018

        Thank you, Michelle. Sending hugs right back to you! And the priority given to welcomes and goodbyes in the culture where you are sounds so special. What a neat way to give value to people and relationships. May God bless you and make you a blessing as you serve!

    2. Sarah Hilkemann October 3, 2018

      Paulette, I’m so glad you commented- it is never to late to add to the discussion! 🙂 I’m glad the pre-grieving article is helpful!
      I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of your co-worker. I’ve walked that path with the loss of people from my agency, and it is hard. Lifting up the family and all those connected!

      By the way, you were our week #3 giveaway winner! I sent you an email but haven’t heard back from you, so adding it to this comment. 🙂 Let me know if you received the email and we can figure out details!

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