This morning I rolled out of bed around 6:30. I got up, got ready, turned on Pandora in the background, and put on one of my favorite gray dresses on. I went downstairs, ate a bowl of cereal and drank a glass of orange juice, and packed my bag for the day. By 7:30, I was ready to go, and I began the 1.1 mile walk to Casserly House that I have done almost every day for the last year.
On the surface, it looked and seemed like today was a day like any other, but my heart knew differently, and the people passing me on the street could likely see it in my face.
Today was my last day at Casserly House.
It’s been over 48 hours now since I walked away from 42 Stellman Road for the final time. Honestly, I was so emotional about it on Friday that I could barely talk about it in any sort of coherent manner, even to my housemates, mom, and best friend. I’m still not sure if I’m to the point of talking coherently, but I am at the point where I can at least try.
The first time I ever walked to Casserly House was during our site visits the Friday before I started work last August–almost exactly a year ago. I still remember that morning like it was yesterday, trying to soak up every bit of my surroundings in an attempt to process all of the transitions. I wore the same gray dress that day that I wore my last day; I guess I just appreciate the symbolism of coming full circle.
Speaking of symbolism, a brief note about my walk to work: I did that walk daily this year, through rain, snow (briefly), and heat. I came to recognize the faces I would pass each morning and had regular chats with the kids as they waited for the school bus. I spent the past year learning how to walk with people on a spiritual/emotional level, just learning how to be with them. That daily walk kept me grounded; it reminded me of why I was really at Casserly and who I need to be.
In a year full of blessings, the last day at Casserly was one of the biggest. It was, in short, a very good day to end a very good year.
I have spent all week floored by gratitude. There were so many beautiful moments that I wish I could share–people stopping in just to say goodbye, generous gifts and even more generous words from the ESOL teachers, the most beautiful letters from the ESOL students, the kids who made me promise that I would come back to visit (as if they could keep me away), sobbing for most of my walk home and not caring about the strange looks I was getting (still haven’t decided if this was high or a low in my life)… and finally, the moment as I walking home when I realized that I did it. I’m done.
And while that is heartbreakingly sad on some levels, I don’t know if I have ever felt more accomplished.
After a morning and lunch of goodbyes, I really had no reason to continue to stick around after about 2:00 pm. However, I couldn’t drag myself away quite yet. I ended my day (and my year) by sitting with S. Nancy on the front porch for almost an hour. I just needed to soak up Stellman Road one last time. Finally, it was really time to go, and S. Nancy walked me part way down the street before we went our separate ways. However, I didn’t make it far before one of the kids chased me down on a bicycle for one final goodbye. “You’re coming back, right?”
We come, and we go; we fall in love with people and places, and then we have to say goodbyes. Thankfully, there is always the “till we meet again’s” and memories to pull us through and remind us of what we have loved, what has changed us in a profound way, and what has broken our heart. Such is life, and such was my year.
I will carry these people, their stories, and these memories with me always.