The day may come when you to have to part from close friends, but there are ways to keep the bonds strong.
It’s painful to leave those we love. Even if the separation isn’t permanent and even if it’s for a good reason — like a job or a promotion or even a new baby that means you have to find a bigger place to live or a quieter neighborhood— having to say goodbye leaves a sad taste in your mouth.
Both leaving and watching someone leave is painful. Of course, you will come back for visits; of course, there will be messages, calls, and social media for sharing news. But it will never be the same, that is certain. How can you make this separation bearable?
Not everything is bad about being far away
Leaving our friends is like losing a chunk of ourselves. Aren’t our friends, along with our family, the ones we love the most? Marie, who became a grandmother recently, explains: “After my husband died, I have relied heavily on a couple of friends. And now it turns out they are moving to the other side of the country! What am I going to do without them? Our little spontaneous walks are over, our conversations at the market around the corner are over, going to Mass together is over … We won’t be able to have fun working together on the liturgy team anymore, or at the sports club. There will be no more sharing our day-to-day life.”
Bertrand, for his part, is preparing to move away from the town where he and his family have lived for over 10 years, and he confesses: “The other day, I got really depressed thinking about the people we would be leaving behind, people that we have shared so many important times with, and I’ll probably never see most of them ever again.”
However, not everything is bad about being far away. And friendship doesn’t necessarily have to suffer. Separation is often an opportunity to discover your friends in a new, even more beautiful way because it becomes deeper: distance obliges you to go beyondwhat can be a superficial or possessive relationship and re-focus it on what is truly essential.
What to do when a friendship changes
Of course, you need to take the time to keep up your ties with those you left behind (and help your children do this as well). Letters, emails, and text messages make it possible to express things you actually may not know how to say out loud. And those few days of vacation when you are able to meet up intensify the joy of getting to know each other in this new way and enrich what each one has lived on their side. You meet again, as if you had only left yesterday, when actually months or even years have passed, instantly getting back into the old swing of things, on the same page as always on what is truly important.
The bonds forged with our friends are inscribed in the heart of God
In this world, the even best things come to an end. As much as it pains the poet, time never stops and days of happiness fly away as fast as the days of sorrow. Every separation reminds us that we are mortals. “Remember we are dust and to dust we shall return” as the liturgy for Ash Wednesday goes, and sooner or later, all our human endeavors will perish. Down here, what is certain is that one day we will leave those who are dear to us, even if it is not until the hour of our last goodbye.
This would be terribly sad … except that it is, at the same time, a call for hope. What happens invites us to raise our eyes to what does not happen; and the word “goodbye” itself reminds us that we are called to see ourselves in God. We suffer for what comes to an end because we were made by He who never ends.
The best things come to an end because the best never ends. The circumstances of place and time in which we live our friendships are ephemeral, but friendship never disappears. “Love never ends” (1 Corinthians 13:8): the best in our human relationships is called on to be realized in eternal life. The bonds we have had the privilege to forge are inscribed forever in God’s heart. in Him, if we wish, we can remain very close to our friends, in spite of the geographical distance. In the communion of saints, we can continue to rely on each other. We can continue sharing in a real, yet invisible way, the best of our lives: the love of God.