Sunday, July 21, 2013

Time capsule: Live each day

(Written Saturday, May 11)
Among my least favorite things this semester was a growing worry for my and my family's safety. There were two days in particular as I was getting ready to leave for school that I felt like there was a real possibility I might not make it home again.

Of course, there's always that possibility - crazy drivers and muggers are everywhere; food poisoning can happen everywhere; who knows what my immune system can't handle; everything we eat kills us by degrees. That's life.

But two days it really hit me that I might not be coming home. One of those was graduation. Boko Haram is a terrorist group whose name means (roughly) "Western education - boko - is sinful - haram." So here I am, Mr. Boko, doing something haram. A graduation of a western university sounds like an ideal target for any one of the dozens of splinter groups and copy cat organizations. When a (false alarm) report of 30 dead spread the day before, I actually prayed that I'd rather have another kidney stone attack to give me a legitimate excuse to miss it.

Living each day as if it were your last would be horrible.

The night before and the morning of graduation, the possibility of it being the Last Time really hit home. Singing to my children felt particularly important as I sang our family's song - I sometimes call it my spell of protection, binding our family together to survive any calamity. Trying any kind of discipline was very hard. I set my alarm earlier because I wanted to make sure that, if it was my last day, we had read scriptures together. When we did read scriptures, I found an excuse to bear my testimony to them ... just in case. Extra hugs and kisses before I left. Extra admonishments to be good and obey Mommy.

and to know I love them very much.

I told Joy I would send her a little email every 15-30 minutes during graduation so she would know I was okay. Turned out my connection was lousy, so they came in bunches. I thought about writing my children a long letter each - which didn't happen, sadly. Those last letters are useful things to have around, just in case, y'know? But I know what would've gone into each of them.

In economics, we differentiate between "risk" and "uncertainty." With risk, you have a pretty good idea what the relevant probabilities are: stock returns have a particular distribution, flipped coins will be 50/50 heads, that kind of thing. You don't know what will happen, but you've got a good idea of what might happen and how likely certain events are. With uncertainty you don't even know what might happen, let alone how likely each outcome is. I was very uncertain. I didn't know what the probability was, but with a new attack somewhere in this state or the adjoining one every couple days for the last several weeks and every week for the entire semester ... it felt high.

There's a natural tendency now that the "crisis" has passed and nothing at all happened to want to minimize all that fear. But it was a rational response, whatever the objective probability actually was. It's one of the top reasons I'm glad Joy and the kids will be living in the States next year. Bad stuff can happen to them there too ... but it's known risks and not uncertainties.

When we prayed last night, I told God I trusted Him with me and with the family. It felt very silly after saying that to even want to ask for anything else or more than for His will. It felt very foolish to worry - we're all in His hands anyway. But His ways aren't my ways. (Psst... they're better.)  Oh right.

Lord, I believe. Help Thou mine unbelief.

On the drive to the graduation, this is what I read next in my scriptures:
But I will deliver thee in that day, saith the LORD: and thou shalt not be given into the hand of the men of whom thou art afraid. For I will surely deliver thee ... because thou hast put thy trust in me. (Jeremiah 39:17-18).
Epilogue (May 11):
Tonight my daughter gave me the tenderest, longest hug. It was sweet and everlastingly real.
Tonight my son hugged and laughed with me as I sang to him and wove my protection spell around him again.
Tonight I am very thankful to live each day as if it were a part of an eternity.

Oh, but I'm going to miss them during the last year of my contract!