our boat docked at the harbor, we disembarked, and were greeted by new, smiling, swedish faces and a cold, chilly swedish summer rain. everything happened more quickly than i could process it. we crammed ourselves & our luggage into the backseats of a couple of cars and were whisked off to someone’s home for a bbq.
our hosts here in gothenburg were all girls, or young women. some of them had been on the caravan the summer before. what that means is that they traveled to north carolina with others from denmark, norway, estonia, finland, & lativa, where they traveled and were hosted by americans, as we were doing this year in scandinavia. this exchange between united methodist churches in north carolina and scandinavia began in the 1950s. so it has been a long-standing tradition bringing people together for many, many years. once a “caravaner”, always a “caravaner”, i always say. and whenever you meet a fellow “caravaner” there is an instant and very strong connection.
after an intense 20 minute drive through the city of gothenburg, all of us drooling on the windows as we passed one european building or structure after another, we arrived in a suburban neighborhood. here, we were going to have dinner and just chill with our new hosts, since we’d been traveling all day. other than that, we had no idea what lay ahead – as it always was from day to day. that was part of the charm and the amazingness of this experience…. it required a willingness to face whatever came, flexibility, and an adventurous spirit.
all of these young, swedish women seemed so kind, funny, & exciting. but there was one that actually took my breath away. when we walked outside to the back patio area, where the grill was, this one woman was quietly working to prepare the vegetables for the bbq. she greeted us quietly and sweetly, and i remember noting that she made me feel warm. she made me feel welcome, without even doing anything. there was something inside me that wanted to get to know her. i was intrigued, though i didn’t think much about it.
dinner was full of chit chat and getting to know each other, adjusting to the thought that we were now in sweden, and had left the first part of our journey behind in denmark. we would be together with some of these swedish women for a week, so it was time to shift gears and discover who they were. with full bellies and feeling a little bit more at ease in our new surroundings, we went inside to swap stories and life experiences. some time passed, and the swedish chicks decided that we’d spend a little time singing. this beautiful blonde who intrigued me, sat down at the piano and began playing and singing. like an angel. i was mesmerized, drawn in by the softness of her voice. and the lyrics of the song… they filled me with emotion and peace.
shepherd of my soul. i give you full control. wherever you may lead, i will follow.i have made a choice, to listen to your voice, wherever you may lead, i will go.
the lyrics haunted me. her voice soothed me. i knew, in that moment, that i was doing the right thing. that i was here, on this trip for a reason. that the decision i was making to end my marriage & seek to find my soul, was right. that to abandon it all, to face all uncertainties and fears, to step out of the boat, was exactly what i was supposed to do. this woman was a messenger for me.
the days in sweden rolled on, and i found myself spending more time with this intriguing, beautiful, sweet woman… lina. since we were both leaders ( i, the leader of the american youth, and she, the leader of the swedish hosts), we had a lot to talk about. practical things. what we were going to do next, where we would go, how we were all feeling. but, it wasn’t all practical. not at all. lina and i laughed. hysterically. a lot. when we played games, we found ourselves near each other. hugging on each other. teasing each other. flirting without knowing we were flirting. we just clicked. we just fit. perfectly. something inside me felt so comfortable, at ease, and like this person just got me. i wasn’t attracted to her, and yet i was. it’s so hard to explain…
it felt as if this person knew me, even if i’d just met her. and i knew that she was something special. someone special in this world.
the week came to a close, and lina & a few others took us to the harbor in stockholm. we were there to board a ferry for an overnight trip to helsinki, finland. after a week of laughing, joking, sharing, and just being together, i felt panicky as i approached the big boat which was going to sail me away from sweden.
this was a typical feeling when leaving each & every place we visited, because we always met such wonderful, hospitable people who took care of us and shared their lives with us. the goodbyes were heart-wrenching. especially because there was always a connection that was established and you had know idea if you’d ever see any of the people again or not. so, you said goodbye and just assumed you’d never meet again.
this feeling of never seeing lina again filled me with anxiety as i stood in line to board the ferry. i just couldn’t leave this special friend i had found. and we both acknowledged that it was a special friendship, even using those exact words. we had swapped email addresses on the train on the way to stockholm, so at least we had that. nevertheless, the time had come.
i lifted my backpack onto my shoulders, hugged lina tightly, made a little frown, made sure all of my youth were in front of me, slowly walked behind them, turned back one more time toward lina, waved, and said goodbye.
goodbye, sweden. goodbye, lina.
(click on the “from death to peace” category link just below to catch up & read the previous “chapters” of my story.)