Friday, December 20, 2013

Grieving Change, Friendships, and Life Being Messy

I have a very hard time saying good-bye to people that I care about; I like people to be a continuity in my part because it takes me a while to feel like I really know someone else; and in part because it takes me a while to let other people get to know me.  And by the time we get to know each other, I just want that person to be around.  For good.  I am resistant to change (words that I used to despise during my days in Human Resources management).  Despite how easily I might appear to adapt to change, I grieve them...sometimes deeply.

I was the kid who, even during junior and high school, hated summer vacation because it meant saying good-bye to my beloved friends.  I marvelled at how easily others could say good-bye to each other and move on to summer plans when my heart felt as if it had been dealt a harsh blow.  It's been that way all of my life when relationships have undergone change.

Last week I had to say good-bye to someone that I have come to care about.  Heather is a woman I met just three months ago, in September, when she and her husband and 6-year-old daughter moved temporarily to Canada from the United States, while her husband was on sabbatical.  They knew little about this country and decided to give living here a try.

I met Heather when her daughter joined Seth's and Lizzie's Friday afternoon music class.  As I dropped Lizzie off at class that day, I noticed the new girl and her mother, and made a point to say hello.  While the kids were in their class, Heather and I sat down over a cup of coffee and spent the time chatting and getting to know bits about each other.  I remember, towards the end of that time, risking my heart a little by reaching over and touching her arm and saying that I already knew that I was going to miss her when they left in December.

I was right.  I am missing her.  It's a little pang in my heart that echoes the grumble my heart was issuing during that very first hour's conversation.

It's happened a few times in my adult life - that instant kind of friendship that comes from sharing similar outlooks on life.  It's such a treasure to experience these kinds of connections as adults. Although Heather and I are very different people in many respects, there were times that I wondered if she had the ability to read my mind because she would say exactly something that I had been thinking about.  We have much in common when it comes to unschooling our children and I was amazed at how confidently and almost off-handedly she spoke the same thoughts and ideas and conclusions that I had laboured to arrive at earlier this year. Our discussions on the subject of learning eased my fears of aloneness and anxiety.

It was more than a common perspective on our children's learning that drew me to Heather, though.  We are both people who parent deliberately and we both think carefully about priorities and direction.  In addition, like others amongst my friends, Heather is a compassionate, intelligent, humorous, well spoken, and thoughtful woman who listened to me and offered input into my life and also allowed me to listen to her and speak into her life.  I love people like that.  She's also someone who knows herself very well and I have learned from her.

Heather's entrance into my life was/is a God thing, I'm convinced of it.  Although she and I have very different faith journeys, God is way bigger than those differences and He knew that I needed her for this season.  Not just someone like her, but her.  Our conversations about unschooling eased my mind and my fears and even solidified some of my conclusions; many other conversations about our lives' journeys gave me pause and I am better for them.  She's remarkable.

I was conscious throughout the past few months that it was going to be hard for me when she left and I wondered at first whether it was a wise thing to engage in a friendship that had an end date attached to it.  I know my tendencies.  But I guess my time in therapy over the years helped :) because as quickly as those thoughts came, I was able to both understand them and discard them.  It became an easy decision to enjoy her as much as possible in the short time she was here.  I also gave myself permission to feel sad when the time came to say good-bye.

This is life, isn't it?  Real, messy life.  Just as we get used to something, it shifts slightly again and we are pointed in a new and somewhat different trajectory.  People like me, who are reluctant to change and who grieve change, can find new horizons challenging.  But I wouldn't trade it, and I choose not to lock my heart away for fear of being hurt or sad - I've been down that road before and it's definitely the worse path to take.

One of the heart's greatest joys is to find connection with care about other people and to plunge into relationship.  We were created in and for relationship, and I am blessed by the friendships of many truly wonderful people, including a few long distance friends whose numbers Heather has now joined.  And the truth is that my life is so much the better for knowing Heather.


  1. This post was hard to read. It took me several tries before I could read the entire thing. Thank you for such a sweet reflection. I feel very much the same way. I try my hardest never to say goodbye. I have left communities before anyone knew I left just because I did not want to deal with goodbyes. They are too hard for me.

    I learned valuable lessons while I was in Winnipeg and met wonderful people. It reminded me about how I want to live my life—open, fully open to possibilities and experiences. That requires time, effort and energy. Something in our harried lives we often feel like we do not have enough time of. I was amazed at how many people there opened themselves up to us even though we were temporary residents. And because of their efforts our time there was rich and fulfilling.

    One of my special moments was meeting you. The afternoon we spoke, I went home and told Sylvester I had found a friend. It is not often that two people can meet, a share an honest conversation—opening oneself up to judgment and criticism. I felt honored to hear your stories and safe enough to share mine. I often think the best relationships are when people reciprocate. In many of my relationships I am the listener and I enjoy this role. In our conversations, I felt compelled share my thoughts and I was rewarded with good counsel and support. The intimacy that is shared in those conversations goes straight to the heart and regardless of the time of the relationship it creates deep meaning.

    Ruth, my friend during my Winnipeg season has become my dear friend for a lifetime. As life takes us in different directions, you and your family are in my thoughts. And I can’t wait to read, hear and see the milestones yet to come and I am eager to share mine. Thanks Ruth. You are so generous and truly an exceptional person. You taught me many good lessons.


  2. Thanks Heather...darn it, now I'm feeling teary-eyed again. :)

    Talk soon, and sending you hugs,