It was just a few short weeks ago, but it feels a lifetime. Hero Hubs and I were sitting outside with the lights off, half a world away with the sounds of the African night all around us. For days, we’d been watching a small family of bats that was nesting in a little space between the doorframe and the door nearby, and at dusk they’d come out to begin their nightly ritual of swooping through the air above our patio.

As the bats collected their meal, a few insects at a time, the hubs and I talked. We stilled, hushed and listened to the birds and the sounds and the low murmur of television sets and other human life in the cottages nearby. The incredible gift of echolocation amazed us and we watched how quickly the bats changed course: their flight might be aiming straight at our heads, then they’d adjust direction within inches of our ears and we’d hear a gentle swoop as they passed.

It was one of those irresistibly special moments where I thought to myself, “I wonder… could anyone else in the world being doing exactly this thing at this moment?”

I was delighted by the experience, grateful we were outside thinking and talking and looking up and not inside staring at screens. And while the idea of a few bats whirring past my ears made me a bit nervous, I just decided… I am not going to be afraid. I’m going to live this experience, this moment.

There are stars in the southern sky.

And I can honestly say I’ve never seen stars like I’ve seen them from the southern hemisphere on a clear night, near the bushveld and far away from bright lights and city pollution. It’s become a ritual on every journey back to SA. We always find at least one night, and we look up at the sky together, sit quiet and talk. We talk about our lives, what we are hoping for or preparing for in the season ahead. And this time we talked a lot about my Dad-in-law’s (I prefer Dad-in-love’s) health. We were startled by how fragile and weak and declining he seemed when we arrived back in SA.

Three weeks. It was a precious and good time making new memories with family. We were also privileged in our visits into Kruger National Park. Blessed to see animals and sights we’d never seen before in the previous ten years of game viewing together. Lions mating, wild dogs with pups, a hippo having an argument with a crocodile, and back at our cottage, several gorgeous species of kingfishers fishing right off the porch where we were staying. We watched yellow weavers making nests in an acacia tree overhead, listened as they chittered feisty arguments about who would get which branch, marveled as they clipped away at last year’s nests and let all that hard work drop into the pond below to make space for new nests.

It was as if the very voice of God was whispering to my soul with every sight, with every sound, with every blessed moment… I’m with you and I love you.

I was grateful for that whisper — I just didn’t know yet how much I needed it.


We spent our last few days in Bloemfontein, soaking in the last few moments with Mom and Dad before we’d be half a world away again. On one of our last nights, Dad had a roll of toilet paper by his chair, which he decided to pass to sweet baby Catriana (now ten months old) to see what she might decide to do with it. She rolled it out and began tearing strips into shreds, and I watched her enjoying her new toy, but I really took in Dad just enjoying her. There was a beautifully bright gleam in his eyes.

At the end of those three weeks, we said a really hard, really sad goodbye. Living far away is just hard. Really hard. For the last four years, every goodbye has been a scary could-this-be-the-last-one goodbye.

With Bloemfontein in our rear view mirror, we endured the treacherous five hour drive to ten hour flight to fourteen hour flight to five hour drive home. We arrived exhausted, and after a brief rest, jumped in to all the commitments on the calendar. Quiver Tree Academy (our homeschool) started up again, at least until everyone got knocked out by some unpleasant virus that came for a visit.

The news came just two days after our return, Dad was in the hospital. Day after day we did our best to keep going here, while waiting to hear news about Dad, doing poorly there.

Life is messy hard when you are mostly waiting but have to keep living.


We’d only been home ten days when we heard the news.

I’ve had the privilege of calling two men Dad in my lifetime. And now my second Dad had breathed his last breath. That night, Hero Hubs drove to the airport to get on a plane the next morning, headed back to our beloved country again.

It has rained every day this week, and the stormy skies seem to reflect the sentiments in my own soul. Grief is a path that can take you in several directions, almost simultaneously. Angry and sad, grateful and glad for the memories, hurt and fearful when you consider the great separation between you and this person so dear to you… you can jump from one path to the next, one emotion to the next, in the blink of an eye.

You can be sitting still on the outside, but on the inside, your soul feels like it’s rocking in a tiny boat on tempestuous waves.

For days now, we’ve been mostly sad. I’m sad that it seemed best for the kids and me to stay here while HH traveled home to bury his father. We FaceTime, sad at this loss, sad at the separation.

It takes a while for me to remind myself that sad is often right, and appropriate, and it’s okay. Not every sentence needs to end with an exclamation point.

I think about what wise old Job said to his wife, when she was so bitter at all the sadness in their lives and said he ought to curse the heavens for all the broken parts of his life.

But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” {Job 2:10}

We came home to the leaves falling from the trees, the reminder that part of the renewing is in the letting go. The beloved dogwoods in my front yard will bloom again in the spring, but first leaves have to fall. This too is part of the process.

It can be awfully hard to lean into trusting that even though you’re not in control, somehow life can still be okay. It can be hard to sit still and trust the special gift God gave the bat to keep it from hitting you in the head. But a small kind of miracle can take place if you can let go.

New leaves will push through in the spring and life will be renewed. A tiny whoosh passes by and your ear canal catches it and tells your brain — that’s the sound of a tiny little bat who just changed direction mid-flight to avoid colliding with you. Rejoice in how amazing it is. Even if it’s also so simple.

The Dad our family will say goodbye to tomorrow was often a man of few words, but also a man who spoke up when it was time to speak. He was a man who made efforts to greet cashiers at the checkout in their native language, and even if the first three languages he tried didn’t work, he kept trying.

Sometimes the simple things are the most amazing.

I’m grateful we had three more weeks of memories so recently. I’m grateful Dad had 77 years of life. I marvel that he was just a few weeks shy of being married 50 years to the one and only love of his life.

Living out a promise faithfully for 50 years. Beaming in his last few days at the mischief of passing a roll of toilet paper to a baby just to see what she’ll do.

Sometimes the simple things are the most amazing.

There are stars in the southern sky.

And there are stars right where you are, too. And it’s amazing to think the light that you’re seeing often started its journey from those distant places before you were born. The very star you’re wishing on might’ve died years ago, but the light it let off is still on its journey in this direction.

Even though his journey wasn’t an easy one, Dad had a light in his eyes and goodness in his heart, and it’s a gift to think about how that light still shines, and will still shine in his absence.

Sometimes, the simple things are the most amazing.