Sacred Moment: Goodbye?

Maria Niechwiadowicz


April 29 – 6 hours left in Guyuan, 16 hours left in ChinaI woke up with a deep breath, trying to take in the final moments of waking in my large, China bed. The soft glow of the morning sun shone through the curtain and I couldn’t help but eagerly hop out of bed to make it to the track one more time. 

It was a typical Guyuan morning. The warmth of the sun cancelled out the morning chill. The track area was filled with the ayi (aunt/grandmother) walkers, badminton players, tai chi -ers, and other exercisers. I, too, followed routine, running 6-8 laps (2 miles), then cooling down with walking and stretching. 

This is not a socializing time for me, despite the fact that the ayis are social butterflies, but I have developed a small “nihao ma?” relationship with them. This has been enough to make me feel welcomed and connected to this morning community.

But today, as I walked and prayed, I felt like I needed to say goodbye and thank them for their presence in my life. As the bend approached, I moved to the outer lane, near to the exercise equipment, where 4 ayis were scratching their backs against the equipment. 

Eh, nihao! Wo hui-lai meiguo…maintain,” I spoke in my broken putonghua, trying to convey that I am returning to America today. After a few seconds (realizing I had actually spoke to them in Chinese) they responded in thick Guyuanhua, words of best wishes and regret. Shaking their hands and hearing their words filled me with relief and warmth, feeling a new sense of closure. 

I repeated the process to another set of women I felt fond of, and then made my departure down the driveway towards my apartment. Within two steps my eyes had clouded with tears and hardly two steps later I heard, “eh mei guo ren!” I turned around and saw one of the ayis coming towards me, indicating that she will walk back with me. 

Upon reaching my side, she took her small, gloved hand with mine and led me, hand in hand, down the drive. This act of compassion allowed my held back tears to let loose. The ayi gave me a tissue and patted my back as she led me on, telling each person we encountered that her American friend was leaving today. 

I was overwhelmed by this simple act of love, this grandmother’s willingness to take my hand and walk with me. Not only was it a beautiful moment that will always remind me of my track community, but it also reminded me that as I transition to America, God is always willing to reach out, take my hand, and lead me down the right path.

Thank you God for sacred moments. 

P.S. I’m back in America!:)