When Friends Move Away

My best friend moved away today.

If you watch Grey’s Anatomy, you know what it means when I say that she is my person. The one who gets me. And I get her. And now she’s gone.

My husband and I spent our first five years of marriage in Ithaca, the home of both Cornell University and Ithaca College. By nature of it being a college town, there was a large transient population. Nearly all of our close friends were students of some kind, destined to move away eventually.

So when we moved to our current tiny town, we expected that the transience would stop and we’d settle into some life-long friendships. People, this is a town where there are still folks living on the roads that are named after their ancestors. There’s a lot of loyalty to this place, and some pretty impressive family trees. For example, there is a family in our church which has four generations of attenders.

And yes, there's a road named after them.

Unfortunately, over the five years that we have lived here, we have watched at least twelve families move away. Three of those families were particularly dear to us.

Now, that’s not a huge number unless you realize just how small this community is. So just trust me, that’s a lot of people moving away. Part of it is that our tiny town is still a college-centered community, and college communities tend to be, by nature, transient.

But even so, we expected more stability 
from this place.

I have a lot of insecurity and I like being alone, so making close friends is already difficult. But it is absolutely crushing to spend years slowly cultivating a close friend, only to lose her to some hipster city across the country. Its like planting blueberry bushes, patiently grooming them for years and then losing them to a brush fire the year they were finally ready to produce fruit.

This is why what Kelsie said in her post really hit home to me:

“Being intentional about community, about really having people be a part of our lives, means not holding back even if people are going to move away.”

I’m at the point where I’m frankly afraid of making new friends. What if they up-and-leave me, too? How am I supposed to keep investing in people if they are going to leave me just when I feel like we’re about to produce some beautiful fruit?

So I cry, and feed her and her husband their last meals in town, and help them pack the truck, and cry. And then I bless them as they drive off into the dark, rainy night.



5 comments on “When Friends Move Away

  1. Gaynel says:

    Hello Rebecca, thank you for sharing, a lot of times I too feel like a loner, friends moving away and such. I know you already know this, your friend is right. More importantly I pray you will reach a point where beyond head realization, your heart will understand and value even the short walks and footprints to not fear if the feet that made them are not here to stay.

  2. elizabeth says:

    I really like this post, Rebecca. Indeed: “How am I supposed to keep investing in people if they are going to leave me just when I feel like we’re about to produce some beautiful fruit?” It’s a good question. And so hard.

    PS Way to integrate another contributor’s post into yours. 🙂 You’re so community-minded. hehe.

  3. Darla says:

    Some thoughts: Maybe think of the years you spent cultivating this relationship as practice for the next time. You risked letting someone get to know you and learned how to connect. It reminds me of the “Better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.” And, then I wonder, did you lose her totally? Is there another way to continue to create this relationship and its potential fruit? I enjoy exploring and connecting with people. Not all explorations turn into a significant connection. I think my orientation is based on a rebellion to my mother’s orientation. She always said she wasn’t willing to let anyone into her life that she might come to care about, not even a pet, because they would just leave or die. So sad! Thankfully my dad was the opposite: a friend to all. Hang in there. At 63 years of age I can tell you life is full of transitions and instability, amidst some continuity and stability! Life is good!

  4. Lisa says:

    This was a moving and really well-written post, Rebecca. I loved and almost got teary at the image of you blessing them as they drove away, crying. And the blueberry bush image was lovely. I pray God will bless you with another “she’s my person” friend in town and comfort you as you miss your friend.

  5. Rebecca says:

    Thanks for your thoughts and encouragement. I am continuing to be blessed by my friendship with these folks, despite the distance. And, I’m also continuing to grow in relationships here. God is gracious.

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