By Dyan Huey
It took only a split second in my heart to be back in the Tel Aviv airport, preparing to board the return flight to the US. The overwhelming sadness that hit me then was again washing over me, even as I sat in Indianapolis traffic six years later. Tears clouded my vision and surprisingly slid down my cheeks.
This parting was also painful, rather breathtaking, and I was unprepared for it, again. This time, the cause was the realization that my first child, now 18, was heading off to college the very next day. Then, 6 years ago, the source of my pain was anticipating the end of my pilgrimage to the Holy Land and flying away from a land I had come to love in ten short days.
Why was I so bereft? How were these two places in time related at all? Why was the hollow pit in my stomach so pronounced? After all, returning home from a pilgrimage should be a happy event. Sending your firstborn off to college should be an anticipated and exciting rite of passage. Why the pain?
And then I had a revelation. Leaving the Holy Land meant leaving a place that had quickly embedded itself in my heart, in my soul, and in my emotions. I was leaving when I didn’t want to leave.
As for sending my daughter off to college, I was parting ways with a young lady I had come to love more than I could have fathomed during all those busy years of motherhood.
You are correct. Neither of these events were bad. It wasn’t an injury, or a death, or an unexplained loss. But, it was a grief. The sense of loss was so acute in both situations that it caught me off-guard.
Leaving the Holy Land after only 10 days filled me with a plethora of spiritual memories, spiritual commitments, and spiritual passion. But the grief came with knowing that things would never be the same, even if we could go backwards. Then the understanding that it was a grief I would gladly suffer over and over given the chance to experience again.
Both of these times surprised me with the sharpness of the loss. That can only mean I had found something very special. Oh, I had!
Being a person now crazy in love, I wanted to share the amazing possibility with anyone who would listen. When I went to The Holy Land in 2009 for the first time, I went vaguely knowing something about Jesus and God. BUT now, having been there, having breathed the air of this holy land, I HAVE MET HIM, and I KNOW HIM! It has become amazingly personal for me now.
A pilgrimage isn’t just a visit somewhere different. I had only a vague concept of what a pilgrimage could or should be. So, like the perfect teacher He is, Jesus wrote on the blank page of my heart during those 10 days. Messages of love and hope and trust!
Those “Words” enlightened my rudimentary knowledge I had brought with me. They awoke a longing in my soul I can only describe as primordial. They catapulted me into the essential universe of a God who breathes through us moment by moment. They translated the meaning of HIS LOVE. They took me to the mountain top and now I was loathe to return to the plain.
THAT was the sadness that encompassed me in Tel Aviv and in Indianapolis that afternoon. I didn’t want to (my will) leave the Holy Land. I wanted to move right in anywhere and make the Holy Land my home. Not for any political reason, but for the historical and religious integrity that I found being in the very land that birthed Jesus and our salvation story.
Over the next few years, I came to accept and appreciate the “going down to the plain” part that was God’s will, as it is every day, and especially after leaving Mass. It is His Will that we go out to all the world and spread the Good News of the very Real and Living God that I now knew.
This I realize was the purpose of my pilgrimage. To have gone; to have been profoundly awestricken; and then to allow that Praise and Wonder to propel me back into the world that so desperately needed to also meet thisAWESOME GOD of ours!
AMEN!!! ALLELUIA!!! THANKS BE TO GOD!!!
A pilgrimage to the Holy Land, like marriage, like having a child, like a tax audit, and like death, is something each person has to experience themselves to understand it. I can paint all sorts of pretty descriptions about the glorious holy sites visited, but nothing matches being there in person.
So, I say to anyone who may read these thoughts, “DO NOT DELAY!” Take any opportunity to go on a Catholic Pilgrimage to the Holy Land before you can’t!
For nearly the same money, do it before the trip to the islands, or the casino, or a shopping extravaganza with the girls, or golfing with the guys. Put everything aside and pursue this investment in your journey to God. “Life” has a way of providing open doors for such a trip, and just as quickly, takes away either the financial and/or physical obstacles to be able to do it. That is why I so beg you to put a pilgrimage at the top of your bucket list.
This know for certain: You will never regret it…you will find a way to pay for it…and God will bless you, grace upon grace, in a million different ways for the rest of your life. Like the children you may raise and launch, parting is such sweet sorrow, and the reunion infinitely more rewarding.