In Which I am a Pair o’ Ducks {The Grove – Goodbye}

I reach over and take a sip of Coke.  Immediately I erupt with an embarrassingly loud burp.

My stomach is that jittery.

Pure exhilaration and absolute heartbreak sit mixed in my gut.

I am on my way to the airport as a freshly turned 18-year-old, about to leave everything and everyone I know for a foreign country.

I would blush about by my belch, but I am just with my family.

Just my family.   Just the family I once swore I would never live far away from.  Yet here I am, right out of high school, already leaving them.

My family walks me to my gate (in the days before 9/11), and that’s where it happens- the goodbyes.  My mom had teared up nearly every day of my senior year anticipating this moment.  Now here it is.  My dad is just as teary.  I hug them until I think we’ll break.

Then I turn to my siblings.  My sister is just 11 years old.  I fear that she’ll grow up, and I won’t be there to see it happen.  Turns out, that’s just what happens.


Fast forward years later, past the year abroad that made me fall in love with cross-cultural life and service, past the college years where I met and married a man, hitching our lives and commitments together.  We’ve spent years preparing, and now we are getting ready to do it again – the goodbyes.

We are in the midst of training, just weeks before our departure for the other side of the world. What sticks straight in my memory from those weeks of training is something that is shared, not in the adult session, but in the children’s training.  I have no kids yet.  But I hear about what the trainers do with the children.

They take out two rubber ducks.  Then they talk about them.

Rubber ducks

They say, “These ducks are moving to a new home.  God is going with them to this new home.  See this duck? This duck is happy.  He’s excited about what’s happening.  He’s been waiting and waiting for this big change.  He can’t wait to see what’s ahead.

Now, see this other duck over here?  He is feeling very sad.  He is really going to miss his old home.  He feels nervous and even sometimes scared.  He doesn’t know what his new home will be like.  He is sad about saying goodbye to people and places and things that he loves.”

Then the trainer looks all the kids in the eyes, all these young lives that are about to uproot and transplant overseas, and says, “You know what?  You are just like these ducks.  You are moving to a new home.  Do you know that you are going to feel like BOTH of these ducks?  Sometimes you’ll be happy and excited.  Other times you’ll be sad and scared.  And that’s okay.  Sometimes you’ll even feel like both ducks at the same time!  Do you know what that’s called when that happens?  It’s called a ‘pair o’ ducks’!  Or a… paradox.”

That’s when my throat catches and I say, “Yes, exactly.  I am that pair o’ ducks.”  I am beyond thrilled to be heading into a new life, a divine calling across the world, and yet at the same time a sad and scared me is crying “Is there any other way??”

Those words hang in the air, echoing back across the millennia.

Suddenly a sense of togetherness washes over me.   Jesus in me, and me in him.  We are living together that night in the olive grove, the ultimate paradox, the I-don’t-want-this-but-I-do moment where all of eternity collides.

I am drinking a drop of his cup, a taste of his paradox, the privilege and the pain.  I don’t want this… but I do.  I do for you, Father.

The cost is real.  And all these years later, the goodbyes still hurt.  And I’m still a pair o’ ducks.  And that’s okay.


Where are you at in the paradox?

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Photo Credit: basheertome via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: kurafire via Compfight cc


  1. Laura August 8, 2014


    What a great way to explain to kids all of the feelings involved with moving overseas, and a great way to explain it to adults as well. 🙂 Thanks for sharing this!

    1. Danielle Wheeler August 8, 2014

      It’s stuck with me all these years.  I’ve never looked a rubber duck the same way. 🙂

      1. MaDonna August 10, 2014

        I won’t either! Thanks for sharing this. This is a brilliant tool in helping little ones with transition!

  2. laura August 8, 2014

    My 2 year old daughter just learned that!  It was amazing to see how she had retained it… At lunch on the pair o’ ducks day she was crying in my arms and her response to me saying, “Let it out” was, “Just like the yucky duck.  It’s dirty.”  I’m so grateful for such a tangible picture of such a huge concept.  My good-bye this year is a good-bye to what my normal has been.  For the first time in years, we have no travel plans.  We’re not returning home from home leave.  That is a pair o’ ducks feeling for sure.

    1. Danielle Wheeler August 8, 2014

      Yes!  The yucky duck!  Love that it is so tangible for little ones.  I’m re-telling the ducks story to my kids as we prepare to say goodbye to grandparents and head back to China after our summer with them.

      And wow, big change for you.  Ironic, isn’t it, how there are the same emotions only in reverse?  Prayers for your paradox.

  3. Beth August 8, 2014

    it is getting more ducky on our end. with each intentional purchase the reality is sinking in.

    we still live in the states. for me it is a love/hate relationship. my home yet not my home.

    my new country is my heart and yet the joy/fear, those ducks!

    my bonus son enrolled in high school last week. he is flourishing…and yet he will be uprooted in less than two years…

    another pair o’ ducks.



    1. Danielle Wheeler August 8, 2014

      “It’s getting ducky”  I’m going to start using that phrase!  Love it.  🙂

      Yes, we all know the “home, yet not my home” feeling.  And the toll on our kids – such a weighty burden.  Praying for his heart and your hearts to be united in this.

  4. Catherine Grace August 8, 2014

    Wow. I am totally stealing that analogy!
    We are saying goodbye for the first time – to our field country & going back to our passport one for a while.
    My little ones don’t know the home that’s going to be so familiar to me.
    My older ones are worrying about their paradox… that they should be excited but they are scared too…
    it used to be normal but what if it isn’t? What if they love it and miss here at the same time.
    I am looking forward to saying hellos and my little ones are worrying about goodbyes.
    A family of ducks we are!

    1. Danielle Wheeler August 8, 2014

      Yeah, family members all over the duck spectrum, been there!   May time in your passport country be renewing for all.


    1. Jennifer August 8, 2014


      Thank you… I think it is good for us to recognize and acknowledge the things that we are saying goodbye to and the uncertainty which in many ways we are walking into, the not knowing what the future will hold, or how we will respond to all which comes.  Like Danielle said today this is very much a paradox… two sides that simply cannot be any other way. Contradictions in harmony.

  5. HisFireFly August 8, 2014

    right in the middle of that pair of ducks here

    hoping, trusting God

    will teach me how to swim

    1. Jennifer August 8, 2014

      The first step in learning to swim… is to have the desire to do it… and to recognize as you have done just who the best person to teach us is. I am learning that I need to keep my eyes upon him rather than upon anything else around me, whether it be waves, or water, or ducks.

  6. Kate August 8, 2014

    Brilliantly articulated.  I just sighed a heavy sigh of understanding.

  7. Jennifer August 8, 2014

    When you say goodbye… and know that it easily could be the last time you will do it on this earth… it touches the heart. This I did yesterday to an older friend who has been my friend for almost 30 years, almost all my adult life. I do not think there is anything you can really do to make it any easier… except to continue to walk one small step at a time with the strength and the wisdom only God can provide. I do know I probably do need to find someone I can speak to who has walked through those challenges before, of increasing frailty and challenges of memory, in friends at home, while serving abroad, but that is not an easy thing to do. Counting the cost. Knowing that the price for the blessing of the time we spent together, just being, is the pain of goodbye, and that God does walk with us each step of that journey. He does not ask us to walk it alone, not even one step. He does not want us to deny what we feel, the pain of  goodbye is real… it is a mark of the strength of the relationship we leave behind.

    1. Catherine Grace August 8, 2014

      “the pain of  goodbye is real… it is a mark of the strength of the relationship we leave behind.” yes.
      I told a teary 4 year old once, “it hurts so much because she (the friend we left) is so special to you. It is ok to cry because it is another way you are showing your love for her.” I remember saying it and thinking -now why don’t I acknowledge that myself.
      I love how you say that God doesnt deny us what we feel but He doesnt ask us to walk it alone. Well said.

      1. Danielle Wheeler August 8, 2014

        Yes, the pain is a “mark of the strength of the relationship we leave behind.” Beautifully put, Jennifer.  This truth doesn’t make it hurt less, but somehow it makes it hurt better.

  8. Phyllis August 9, 2014

    A pair of ducks? I love the pun there and the great idea behind it.


    I almost don’t want to say this and sign my name to it, but I’ll be brave. My family really doesn’t seem to feel these goodbyes. Of course, we love our relatives in America, but we’re all very grounded here and comfortable with the fact that we live on one side of the world, and they live on the other. Is that awful?


    After 12 years of m life and hearing about how this life is one of people coming and going, we finally did see a family we had just started to get close to leave. And it did hurt. (But now they’re coming back.) There is also one big goodbye in our history, where we were forced to move from one country to another, that really tore our hearts out. Still, life doesn’t seem like ongoing goodbyes, or that they’re a big part of what we experience. Maybe that’s just God’s mercy to us. I have searched my heart and wondered if it’s too hard… and I don’t get any inkling that it is.

    1. Whitney @ Journey Mercies August 10, 2014

      Phyllis, I don’t think it’s awful. I think everyone processes grief differently. And wouldn’t you say that saying goodbye is different for you today than it was 12 years ago when you first began? I know for us, during our yearly home leave, I was sad to leave family when we returned to Asia, but it didn’t necessarily tear me up – because I knew we were called to Cambodia, and that’s where we belonged. But now that we are returning home to America…saying goodbye feels much more difficult and complicated. Maybe you should just consider yourself well adjusted. 🙂

    2. Kristina Krauss August 11, 2014

      I totally understand Phyllis! I am coming up on 10 years now as a M, and I had another 10 years as a child while my parents were overseas workers. In the beginning, when my husband and I went back to the States, I was aching, I would cry so much, and saying goodbye when we would leave to come back to the field was so HARD. But it got easier and easier. Then we made our trips shorter and shorter. And the last couple of years, I only shed a few tears, and those just at the moment of saying good-bye to a family member. I find myself just anxious to get back home. I quit trying to adapt to the United States anymore. It is my passport country, and I will always look American, but I’m ok with the fact that I don’t feel at home there anymore. I didn’t bother drive on this last trip, but had my sister drive me everywhere. Some stores made me want to hyperventilate, so I just allowed myself to give up and walk out. There is nothing I need anymore. I can get whatever I need on mercado libre, or local stores, so there is no need to torture myself emotionally. I only stayed for 10 days this year. And my husband didn’t even go on this trip, but just stayed here. Anyway, thanks for being brave and sharing your story.

      1. Phyllis August 12, 2014

        Thank you.


        Yes, Whitney, it is different now than it was at first. You’re right.

        And Kristina! I think you just identified the two big stresses/differences for me when we visit America: shopping and driving. I didn’t even go into any stores at all last time, and that was very nice. I can’t drive; I’m stuck the whole time we’re there. It’s always so nice to get back to public transportation and walking on this side of the world. We don’t go to America for long or often. (Oh, that was a rabbit trail. An interesting one, though. 🙂 )

  9. Kristi August 9, 2014

    Good-byes are oh so hard.  I’m heading for the last of them in the next few weeks.  I wrote this last summer while I was preparing for and pondering why good-bye.


    Why Good-bye

    Adam and Eve

    Awakened by the rising sun and morning dew

    They arise and work together, no one says good-bye

    Even if they part it is but briefly, good-byes are unecessary

    Fort they know they will be together soon

    Fellowship.  True.  Uninterrupted.


    Enter the Serpent

    Waiting in the coolness of the evening before the setting sun

    His work will change their lives forever

    This night they will choose a different path

    Good-bye will be said all too soon to Eden, relationship, Life

    Fellowship.  Bent.  Broken.


    Standing outside

    The Garden left behind the next morning they say good-bye

    The work now hard, the animals fierce

    A brief  parting could bring loss and sadness

    The world and the heart of man are hostile

    Fellowship. Fragile.  Difficult.


    Enter God

    Praying in another garden on  a lonely evening

    His work will change our lives forever

    This night He chooses His Father’s path

    His good-bye will open again Eden’s door

    Fellowship.  Purchased.  Restored.



    A garden beyond compare, Eden restored

    Praise is our work as He wipes away the tears

    Of all our good-byes from first to last

    Those that are temporary and those that are not

    Fellowship.  Joy.  Perfection.

  10. Cecily Willard August 24, 2014

    Thanks, Danielle.  I have been in the USA these past weeks so have not been following what is happening here at Velvet Ashes.  But, as I prepare to leave my USA home, I find comfort in these Velvet Ashes.

    I have accomplished almost all I needed to do here in the USA in these past two months.  I was able to see all of the people I wanted to see, except for a dear friend who has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and one who has just had surgery for an aneurysm.  (Man!  It hurts when those you love are suffering and you cannot reach them!)  But even though the mission was accomplished (almost), it still hurts to say those goodbyes again.

    Thanks for turning my attention to Jesus and how He must have felt in the garden.  I need the comfort that He can give because He has been there and done that.  And He went there and did that for me.  And I know that He will be faithful and will give me the grace again  as I pass through the metal detector, pick up my carry-on, and turn around, look up, and wave the last good-bye to my parents who are watching from the overhead perch on what seems to be the other side of the world.

    There are people that I love on the other side of the plane journey, but what about all those hours in the airport, the layover, and the airplanes?  It feels like no-man’s land.  But there Jesus is.  He is my travel Companion.  Somehow, He always fills that empty place from point A to point B.  He knows well what it feels like in that no-man’s land, for He hung on the cross for those agonizing hours before He died.  Wow, what an amazing sacrifice.  And what an honor to join with Him in His suffering (though mine is minuscule compared to His),

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