When Friends Fly Away

 Friends have a way of following their own dreams right out of your zip code. 

They do not forever stay put along the pathways at work, church or neighborhood where you know you will run into them on a regular basis and enjoy light conversation and hugs and invitations to celebrate the small happinesses of life.  Reality provides many opportunities to practice the hard art of farewell.

Last night we gathered in the glow and warmth of a bonfire out in the country. This is about the only way a group can meet in these latter days of COVID (a vaccine cometh). Dear friends from our church start-up community are returning to their home in the southern hemisphere.  They are headed from winter to summer where the shortest day of our year is their longest.  We may never see them again in person.

Other dear friends packed up their condo this week and headed out to new jobs on the West coast. Our first ‘together as a couple’ friends, we were neighbors our first two years of marriage.  Not only was she a fellow co-worker, we had both lived at the same United Nations refugee camp on the island of Luzon at Bataan within just a few years of each other. She was a resident. I was a fledgling ESL instructor. During the first six years of our acquaintance they took on a monumental battle against ovarian cancer and won.   Far, then close, now far again they go.  We may never see them again in person.

Friends can be held loosely at great distance without diminishing the deep desire for their well-being.  As a much younger person I could not perceive that possibility. 

The family headed south includes a daughter in her early teens who has lived most of her life in this country. She now faces the country of her heritage. Having lived something very similar I remember feeling greatly divided.  My life Here.  My friends Here. The Unknown where I’m originally from that’s supposed to be Home.  You feel you have no control over what’s happening, plus you’re trying to put on a good face for the sake of your family. The bonfire farewell on a cold December night sends my fifteen year old self to her with a hug and a message. “You can make it through.”

I pray for all these departing friends to find along the way that their friends are still their friends even though physically distant. I hope hearts can open to new places and new possibilities. I pray growing pains will only cause stretch marks and not scars, and for peace in the process.  I wave my “magic wand” and foresee future conversations that resume so naturally after even great distance and time it seems they never stopped.

 

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