I found out that my friend had died when an email bounced back. Knowing her age, I had the immediate sense of "knowing" the reason why. It takes time for those email inboxes to either fill up or come to an end. So, I googled obituaries for my friend's name and state, and there it was, her obituary with her photo. She had passed away over a year ago, but the news didn't reach me overseas until nearly one year later. The news was old, but the grief is fresh for me.
This is not the first time I have had belated tears. Finding out after the fact, finding out in unexpected ways, not having an opportunity to share in the celebration of life and the telling of stories, that is part of missionary life. Belated tears shed in the presence of Jesus, a bittersweet celebration of the gift of a friend, coworker, supporter, and sister or brother in Christ.
When missionaries go back home, we have to catch up not only on the happy events but the sad ones too. For us, it might be the first time to see that empty chair at the table. So, if you see a tear well up in a missionary's eye, and there seems to be no reason for tears, perhaps it's a belated tear.
By OMS Ukraine missionary, Colleen Weaver