Monday, April 04, 2005


Transition- a change from one place or state or subject or stage to another.

Life is transition, from the beginning to the end.
Bob Dylan said "He who is not busy being born is busy dying." When you really think about it, every second of every minute of every hour of every day of every week of every month of every year of our lives is transition and change. Some transitions are more dramatic than others yet all are important in developing who we are. The reactions to and the emotions associated with transition are individual; every person sees the change in a different way. Transitions difficult for some are easier for others.

When I was growing up as a preacher's kid, we moved a lot. Not every year but often enough. The first major move I remember was from Roanoke, VA to Gary, Indiana. I was nine and my brother was only nine months old. We had lived in Roanoke for seven years. My mother's parents lived there until they temporarily moved to Pennsylvania for their work. I had just started the fifth grade, one week in to be exact. It wasn't the change of school, teachers, house, town, or other people that made it so painful; it was the loss of one person and one person only...Mary, my best friend. She was two months older than me and we had been best friends since we were three. I went home with her after church on Sunday most weeks and if not, she came home with me. We didn't live near enough to each other to play each day and we didn't go to the same school, but she was the closest childhood friend I ever had.

The last evening there we ate at her house before we left town. I remember sitting in the back seat of the car looking out the back window, sobbing, tears flowing freely, trying to wave good-bye. I thought I would die. I cried until we stopped for the night. I cried softly through the night and all the next day. I cried all the way to Indiana. We promised to write, but we were so young, we didn't. We've seen each other occasionally through the years but we both transitioned. We have the fond memories and both of us cherish them, but we have never had the opportunity to revive the close relationship. Perhaps the pain of that first move caused me to build a small shell, transparent but always present because the moves after that were not as heart wrenching for me. Of course I never had another friend like Mary.

If you don't count the year my folks spent as evangelists and we lived in an Air Stream trailer and changed locations every two weeks, I moved five times in nine years. Nyssa on the other hand lived in Mississippi for fifteen years, from the time she was three until last year. She doesn't remember her move from Oklahoma so this has been her "I'm leaving all my friends" moment. Everyone has them. It's hard. She will probably feel that Mississippi is her "home" but she will survive, just like I did.

Death is a also transition. Dealing with death is difficult for everyone, but the death of someone young with their entire life ahead of them is hard to understand. Last week marked the fourth anniversary of Scoop Sunderworth's death. He was a sophomore in high school, an athlete, good-looking, popular, and although he lived at Palmer Children's Home he had a support group there of kids and house parents that adored him. On April 1st of 2001 he hanged himself. There was no sign of depression, none of the changes anyone would look for. It was April Fool's Day and Scoop was a jokester, so I can only think and hope that this was somehow an April Fool's prank gone terribly wrong.

If he could have known or seen the aftermath of his death, perhaps he would have decided on a different course or a safer prank. His classmates and friends were devastated and the smaller kids in his cottage and his house parents were crushed. Everyone wondered if there was something they could have done or said to make a difference. Those who knew him best put together a picture video of their memories; in this way they grieved and tried to make sense of a senseless loss. In this life there will be no answer, but for his friends, for my Nyssa the memories of Scoop will remain and the first of April is now forever changed.

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