People are a liability. You can replace homes, you can replace cars, you can replace clothes and electronics and stuff, but you can’t replace people. People are a liability because having relationships hurts. If you have relationships, you will have pain. Maybe they will hurt you, maybe you will hurt them, maybe you will hurt just because they hurt. Maybe it will hurt because you have to say goodbye.
Saying goodbye hurts.
I said a lot of goodbyes this year. After graduation in May, the class exodus to old homes and new jobs commenced. I started to miss people I didn’t even know I liked that much. Then, the month before we moved, we helped close friends move to Arkansas, Nevada, and Northern Arizona. We said goodbye to friends and family going to dozens of location around the country and around the globe.
And then we left.
The weeks before we left were a blur. We said goodbyes, gave hugs, and shared tears until my heart felt numb. We said goodbye at the airport to my family, and I bawled in the terminal once we were finally through security and waiting for the plane.
The thing about people is that you can’t replace them. You can make new friends, but they hold a new place in your heart. They don’t fill the place of the old friends. I wish I could take all my old friends and all my new friends and all my family and move them to this little island. One thing that stinks about moving around is that no matter where you go, you always miss somebody.
The first few weeks we were here, I felt like we were on vacation, so it wasn’t too hard to be away from people I know. When school started up and I started to spend more time alone, I started to feel the absence of familiarity. I feel bad, but I have to admit that I kind of resented my neighbors for not being my old neighbors. I missed having neighbors knock on our door randomly throughout the week to say hi or share a DVD or ask for prayer. I really started to miss people. I missed my family. I missed our Bible study group. I missed our church. I missed everyone from work. I missed friends from school. I missed everybody. I still do. Sometimes, part of me wants to just go back to Arizona. But I also know that things aren’t the same there now. New people live in our apartment complex, new people work at my old job, new people go to my old college, and so many people who used to be there are gone.
I try to live by the adage, “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” I compile pictures from past seasons of life and smile when I look at them. And then I look around and thank God for the wonderful things I have in this season. In a year and a half, when we leave, I’m going to feel the same pains of goodbye about this place. And thus goes life– goodbyes and good memories.
Ben is used to goodbyes, and they don’t faze him as much as they faze me. That’s part of being a Third Culture Kid. You get used to saying goodbye. Ben has made five international moves and probably said goodbye to more people than I’ve ever met. All I can say is thank goodness for modern technology. I used to hate Facebook until I married into a family with members in five different countries. Now, I’m glad to have a way to see pictures of my nieces and nephews and find out what’s going on in my family members’ lives. It kills me that I’m not there to watch the kids grow up. But I’m glad I can still be a little bit involved from where I am. Als0, I’m convinced that video chat is the best invention of the century. In the last week, we were able to Skype into both my parents’ birthday celebrations, and it was almost as good as being there (despite the awkward delay when trying to sing “Happy Birthday”). I can’t imagine how it must have been for people when mail went overseas by boat only. It makes my day when I get an email or a Facebook message from a friend back home.
I’m learning how to stay in touch. Historically, neither Ben nor myself have been too awesome at this. Ben literally has no time to do it himself these days, but I’m trying to get better at it. I even wrote nineteen post cards a couple weeks ago. They probably won’t get anywhere for a couple of months, but hey. I’m also getting better at initiating and answering emails. I’ve only Skyped a few people, but I have a lot more I want to talk to. Also, my phone works here (joy of joys!) so I can even get phone calls! Our friend Bizi moved from the Southwest to the East Coast two years ago. He still posts Facebook pictures of friends from our college days to let us know he’s thinking about us. I love that. If any of you, dear readers, have ideas on how to keep connected with people, please let me know in the comments!
Burned into my memory is the last goodbye we said to friends. We had a game night at Bernie and Jessica’s apartment a couple days before we left. As we were leaving, our friend Marcus stood outside the apartment and waved to us with a sad smile. We were just about to turn around and walk away, when Bernie popped out of the door with a giant smile and way too much energy for 11:00 pm–
“Bye, guys! See you in Heaven!”
Marcus slapped him. “Shut up!”
We had to laugh. It was funny, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that Bernie’s really on to something. I really hope we see him again before we die, but no matter what, we know that between Believers in Christ, there is no “Goodbye forever.” It’s always just “goodbye for now.”
It makes me think of a Michael W. Smith song that has become close to my heart.
Because friends are friends forever,
If the Lord’s the lord of them,
And a friend will not say never,
Cause the welcome will not end.
Though it’s hard to let you go,
Still the Father says we know
That a lifetime’s not too long to live as friends.
A lifetime’s not too long to be friends. Stay in touch with us, guys. We miss you and love you.