Some dear friends of mine are moving away. They aren't going too far, like to Australia or California, but they are going far enough that I won't get so see them every week or even every month and already I miss them. Trying to explain to my kids that they are going to live in a different state has been confusing for them. It is really the first time our family has gone through this kind of loss, friends moving away. My kids aren't sad in the same way I'm sad. The time-space continuum is to confusing to worry about and whether they see their buddies again next week or next year doesn't really matter and can we have ice cream for snack? But I know they will notice in those traditional times, birthday parties and church picnics and choir when the absence will be noted. My son has already asked for a playdate before catching himself and remembering that his friend is in NORTH CAROLINA, a state he now pronounces with the same sparkly eyes an ingenue saves for BROADWAY.
It is tricky, this friendship thing, in this culture where we don't stay in one place very long. My parents still live in the same house we moved to when I was four but I do not expect that to be the pattern for my family and nor do most of my peers. Things like the internet and airplanes and the shrinking of the world make moving from job to job and state to state regular occurrences for folks in my demographic. We each handle it differently, kids from adults, men from women, but we are required, by the sheer fact of community, to deal with saying goodbye. I hate it. I'm terrible at it. I'm more of a nonchalant "See you later" then go cry in the closet kind of girl. Easier on everyone that way, right?
This is, of course, not the first time I have said goodbye to a friend because someone was moving. All through college and graduate school I said goodbye on a regular basis to people I had come to love. I moved, they moved, we all moved. It seemed par for the course, part of growing up. And since everything is more dramatic when you're 22, the goodbyes were more dramatic, too, fraught with tears and with promises of eternal devotion, never-ending communication and shared vacations for time eternal.
It is different this time. This is a grown-up goodbye, not so wrenching and dramatic, just sad. I am genuinely thrilled for my sweet friends and the new stage of the journey they are beginning,one hard-won after a long bout of uncertainty. I can't wait to hear about their new adventures, their new house, their new town and new jobs, the new school and the new church (okay, I don't really want to hear about the new church). I am grateful that God brought them into my life because I've learned a lot from and shared a lot with them. But I am sad. For myself, really, because of the very specific gifts they have brought into my life that I'll no longer be around with any regularity.
I know of course, that like so many of the other gifts that God drops unbidden and undeserved in our laps, friendship is worth every ounce of energy we put into it and every ounce of heartache we get out of it. I will, of course, continue to make friends, good friends, friends that I love to be with and share my life with. And I will have to say goodbye, over and over, as jobs and lives change. The cycle will continue, over and over, each new person adding richness and loveliness, even as they leave little holes in my heart.
Loving is worth it, even though today I'm sad.