When my boys were toddlers, I remember reading an invaluable piece of advice. The author was addressing the issue of separation anxiety. In this particular article, parents were encouraged to allow their child to prepare for larger separations by having them participate in smaller ones. In this manner, the child would be well practiced at separating before the impending significant separation. The author further advised the parent to allow the child to be picked up from their home, and taken away to the separation destination. This way the child was leaving the adult, instead of vice versa, and therefore was supposed to experience a greater feeling of control over the situation. I recall trying this experiment out on my own children and it did, indeed, seem to make a difference. I also remember the sinking feeling I felt as I watched my little one’s back walk farther and farther away from me, escorted by his grammy and pawpaw.
I don’t like to be left behind.
I have been acutely aware of this aversion in the past several weeks as I prepare to send a beloved friend off to a new house, to a new life, into a new city, that–right now– seems oh, so far away.
I’ve avoided this precious friend for weeks now; in hopes that somehow this move would just go away. When others hugged her and said their goodbyes, I stood silently by. Just watching. When others cried and lamented our loss, I turned my head the other way. As if, if I didn’t look it wouldn’t happen.
But last night after church, a few of us met up at her house to have a glass of wine with our friend for one last time, and send her from our fold with love. As we pulled up to her house, the friend that was with me gasped the same as me. There was no looking away from the gargantuan moving truck in her driveway.
My friend started to cry. But I just stared.
In the house, we stepped gingerly around packing boxes and maneuvered between bubble-wrapped mysteries. The walls that I had once helped her paint were bare. The table where we’d shared food and fellowship littered with industrial sized rolls of packing paraphernalia. We laughed so hard. Some cried. Still, coward that I am, I looked away.
When my friend joined our church a few years ago, life was status quo. I had two young children and little time for friends. But I was lonely. I began to pray for God to send me a friend. And along she came. An answer to prayer. I knew that we would be close when she shared her laundry woes with us in Bible study one day. She laughingly confided how her clothes will sometimes stay in the wash overnight, forgotten in the midst of life. She had calculated how many hours she could leave them before she needed to rewash. And I thought: I really like this gal. We had a lot in common.
I liked the infectious nature of her laugh. And the open way that she shared about herself. God not only gave me this beautiful friendship, but He established in our Bible study group a community of women who love each other like sisters. Our branches are laden with fruit. Because we are in Him.
I left her house last night still without saying goodbye. I didn’t even hug her. I asked her if she wanted to have lunch today, again trying to prolong the inevitable. Sure, she said. But we both knew she would never have time. She was merciful and did not force me to say it. She understands.
When I talked to her on the telephone this morning I told her that I couldn’t say it. I couldn’t say goodbye. Part of it is denial, I guess. But the other part is, I know she will never leave me completely. My friend has a permanent place in my heart. Do you have a friend that you will always have a connection to, no matter how far apart you are, or how much time lapses between chats? Someone you can just pick up with where you left off, as if yesterday wasn’t ten years ago? So you see, I cannot feel completely sad, for in this friend I have received one of God’s greatest gifts. A precious treasure.
But I cannot let her go without telling her how much her friendship means to me. Because, as she leaves us behind, she is traveling into the unknown. For this, she needs her friends. She will need to feel our love across those miles. She may need it to sustain her for a little while. But it won’t be long, my dear friend, because there is someone in Charlotte, North Carolina who accidentally leaves their laundry in the washer over night. Someone who loves to laugh with a friend, someone to paint walls with and drink coffee.
I love you, Jacalyn. Your friendship means so much to me, Dear One. I will miss your laugh. I will miss so much about you. But I still will not say goodbye, my friend. Because this is just another beginning.
“…but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”(Proverbs 18:23-24)