It's the afternoon before Jonathan's departure for Virginia (via Texas), where he'll begin his first year of law school at Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA. The air is charged with anticipation and tinged with sadness as we all know, but no one is really talking about it, that Jonathan's departure is imminent. His flight to Texas leaves tomorrow morning, where he'll pick up his things and his commuter car, and drive to Lynchburg with his friend, Micah.
Our grain grinder has been working pretty hard today, as his sisters express their love for Jonathan in a very tangible way - freshly made cinnamon rolls for breakfast, cupcakes, hashbrowns, pasta salad, and more. The kitchen is grand central station today.. I'd forgotten how much Jonathan loves to eat good food, so his sisters have chosen a good way to communicate their love for him.
Once again we're all crowding around each other again, playing Uno, watching old videotapes of when the children were little, talking a whole lot about nothing of much consequence. I think we all just instinctively know that we just want to be together and savor each fleeting moment that we have left with Jonathan.
Jonathan's small roller suitcase was stacked about 10 inches above the top, so I asked him if he'd like some help packing. That's something I always helped him with - packing two, fifty-pound suitcases when he left for Cambodia, packing all he needed for a 7-month internship back in 2012. And I always cry as I pack. I take note of the sizes of his shirts and pants, and note his style and color preference in anticipation of his upcoming birthdays and Christmas gifts. I try to pack with as much love and care as I can. Although I really don't see a way that he can fit two suitcoats in that little roller bag - guess he'll be pretty dressed up tomorrow as he flies.
His Cambodia trip was on for 2.5 weeks, his internship for only 7 months, and then he was gone interning and working for another full year, all leading up to what he's been planning for all along - law school, which God has so graciously provided for. So this time, when we say goodbye at the airport, it'll be more permanent - he truly is off, making his own way in the world. It's just like the illustration I heard recently: our children are like a rocket ship on the launch pad with many large fuel canisters attached to it. It takes a tremendous amount of fuel and power to break free of gravity and get that rocket flying straight upward. But fly, it does, but not without cost. As the rocket finally breaks free of the earth's gravitational force, the empty fuel canisters are discarded, allowing the rocket to soar to great heights.
While not a perfect illustration, I think this illustrates Jonathan's life - he's soaring now - a young man, under God's authority. We've given him all we can, and our time of great influence in his life has come to a close. And it's with great joy that I get to sit in the stands and watch the rocket soar.
Goodbye, Jonathan. I love you and always will.
I'm peering out of our 7th floor window here at the Baranof Hotel, gazing at the majestic Mt. Juneau on this grey, cloudy, rainy, cold summer day. Wispy clouds gently float down the valley between Mts. Juneau and Roberts. Bethany is practicing for tomorrow's Empty Chair Dedication ceremony. She will be performing a violin solo, "Furusato", a Japanese song which talks about one's hometown It's a beautiful, wistful, slightly haunting melody; a perfect selection, offering both a little bit of hope and remembrance.
All thirty-three of us met downstairs in the lobby this morning at 8 to go on a Auntie Alice and Auntie Mary's living history walking tour. We walked up the steep hill to Gastineau Avenue where they showed us the area where an avalanche came down many years ago. We saw the empty shell of a building where the Tanaka children used to play, and the house of a young friend, right up the hill from the Baranof Hotel.
The highlight, in my opinion, was seeing the Tanaka Family's old house, literally built on the side of a mountain. We saw the perfect sledding / skiing driveway, the area where the garden once was, and the steep stairway which led to the house. Rich and I got to take our picture just outside the front door on 334 Carroll Way. The house has basically no foundation - it looks like it's just built on a few 4 x 4's, but it's still standing after all of these years. It must be so healing for Rich - to see the views that his father saw, to walk the same steps that his father must have walked a million times.
Thursday Morning, July 10th
It's our first full day here in Juneau, here in the land of the (almost) perpetual sun. It was finally fully dark by 11pm last night, and Rich said that it started getting light at 3:30am. Thankfully, Bethany, Kristi, and I slept with eye shades, but Rich was up before the crack of dawn exploring his father's boyhood home, the downtown area, and trying to find the trailhead to Mt. Roberts. We've got a small suite here - a very small bedroom with king bed, and small sitting room with pull-out couch for the girls. It suits us well here at the Baranof Hotel.
We enjoyed breakfast downstairs in the Capitol Cafe - packed full of tourists all busily planning their days. Since we're eating only two meals today to save on costs, we each had a hearty breakfast - pancakes, scrambled eggs, spinach, mushroom, and tomato omelet, hash browns, and OJ. The star of the meal was reindeer sausage - must be a specialty around here. Rich must be rubbing off on me - I went ahead and ordered it in my omelet,..and...it was very good! Even better than the usual cow or pig fare, I must say.
So the plan is to see if the fog has lifted enough to warrant the $32 it'll cost to ride the tram up to the top of Mt. Roberts. If it's too foggy we'll just walk around downtown and see what there is to see. We would like to hit the Empty Chair Display at the Juneau Museum today as well.
It really must be a thrill for Rich to walk the same paths that his father must have walked many times over and to see the same sights that he saw. Revisiting history - paths that Rich now gets to experience as an adult. The last time he was here was 42 years ago. His excitement is contagious, and understandably so!