On the loss of Aimee Powell, 21 January 2010
A friend asked if I would write about Aimee…about losing her, and grieving. My friend said it would help her know how to pray. And it made me wish I was closer. Wish it hadn’t been a few years since I’d spoken with Aimee. Wish that we kept in contact more than through Facebook and our mutual friends. Wish I were the right person to write about losing her.
But I am a writer.
So maybe I’ll try.
You know those friends you have sometimes in life, who you’re not in touch with every day, or even have been really close to – in the way you’re close to a best friend – but who you’ve always known, who you’ve shared times with – good times, and who, no matter how far apart you get, you love?
That’s who the Powells are to me. Who Aimee was. I don’t know when I first met them. I first remember spending time with them during our year in Hong Kong. We visited Taiwan, and hung out with the Powells a lot. As soon as I heard about Aimee’s accident, vivid memories of chasing a spider in her bedroom into the corner behind the dresser and squashing it there came flooding back. They were followed by the Taiwan conference that year – when I hung out more with Aimee’s brothers than her, but remember her there on the edges, playing with her sister Allison, a blonde toddler at the time, on the open lawn. The memories jumped ahead a few years – our touches during my teen years were rare and brief – she was three years younger than me, and when you’re 11 and 8, or 15 and 12, that makes a difference.
But Aimee came back into my life in college. I was a senior, and RA, and she came in as a freshman. I don’t think she requested my dorm – though she might have – but God knew where to put her: right across the bathroom from me. We didn’t become best friends, or deep bosom buddies. But we shared our lives for a school year. There were jolly conversations into the evenings, boggled laughter at her roommate, Cammy, who would surprise us with random information like the fact that shooting and field dressing an eight point buck over Fall Break was nothing compared to the alligator she’d once hunted, and good talks – talks about being an MK, about what it meant to “re-enter” a culture you didn’t know you belonged to.
After that year we went our separate ways. Aimee went on to another school. I graduated. I honestly can’t say if I’ve seen Aimee since then. I think we may have connected once, in New Jersey, but I’m not sure when that was…For six years the river of time has flowed past. But Thursday, when I first heard of her accident, my mind jumped back almost twenty years, and then slowly worked its way forward from scene to scene to the present. In every single memory, Aimee’s joyous smile and sparkling eyes stood out.
I read in one of the articles about Aimee that she recently wrote she felt “settled” for the first time in her life. And I know exactly why she wrote that. Most of our mutual friends know why she would write that. We’ve all experienced the rootlessness that comes from growing up as a TCK, an MK. We know what it means to try to be rooted now that we’re adults, and the itching that comes to the soles of our feet when we leave them in one place too long. It’s no surprise to me that the people who Aimee and I both know are grieving across the globe – posts from California, Hong Kong, Michigan, Taiwan, Maryland, Germany, Pennsylvania, China, Alaska are filling her family’s Facebook walls.
When I’ve worked with MKs going through culture change, one of the things that we talk about is citizenship. The definition of a TCK is someone who spent a significant portion of their formative years in a culture different from that of their parents’ passport culture. Citizenship is a confusing concept for a TCK. But God seemed to know the needs of TCKs when he inspired the words of Scripture. He had Paul pen this: “But our citizenship is in heaven,” (Phil. 3:20a). He gave TCKs roots, an unchanging citizenship.
But here’s the thing…Paul doesn’t stop with that phrase. He goes on, “and from it [heaven] we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself” (Phil. 3:20b-21).
Heavenly citizenship isn’t about having roots, though that’s an effect of it. It isn’t about feeling settled, though it gives us a place to belong. No. Heavenly citizenship is about transformation…change from the weak, dark, painful, hard world we struggle through – with bodies and minds diseased by sin – to His glory.
Heaven’s grown closer for me this year. That concept of transformation is played out in my mind’s eye as I see my niece – who was limited and handicapped in this world – running, jumping, and singing with Jesus. Aimee lived across the bathroom from me the year Keren was born. I don’t remember how much we talked about her, but I’m sure we did. And it wouldn’t surprise me if Aimee remembered; that would be like her. So, maybe today Aimee’s playing with Keren – reveling in the transformation that’s taken place for both of them