Air Fiji arrived on schedule. The number of hugs, tears, kisses, and handshakes overwhelmed me. Like my initial departure from Cincinnati, I chose not to look back as I made my way to the plane. Too difficult to think about one last wave, one last glance, one final... I went numb.
From there, I do not remember much, and it is probably best this way. What I do remember, is that the engines roared. The plane’s thrust pushed me into my seat, and before I could pull myself together to wave one final goodbye, I was airborne. I was not ready to leave. This was not how I thought it would end. That searing painful memory burned deep into my very existence. Before falling asleep, I prayed to never forget that pain. My final moments in Kiribati were spent with a family and a country, who ultimately gave my life purpose. Though my service to the country ended that day, my commitment to the nation and my Kiribati family had just begun.