I have put this particular blog of for weeks, because I know that in the writing of it there will be a bit of grieving. I think I have felt kind of like my little brother used to when he was asked to say goodbye to us before we left for boarding school. He used to outright ignore us; as if by ignoring us he could keep us from leaving, or at least not feel the loss the separation would bring. Today I will tell you about some people who have been my friends for almost as long as I have been married. They are moving away, and like my little brother, I would just as soon not acknowledge it. But sometimes things need to be said, even when it hurts to say them. And so I put it off no longer.
Years ago when my children were young, I got to know a couple who had two young children of their own. One day in the midst of conversation, the wife, Randie, mentioned that in the winter the pipes in the mobile home they were renting would freeze and they would be out of water until it got warm enough to thaw them out. I was appalled by this story. After all, we aren’t talking about Africa, here, we were in the U. S. of A! My husband and I offered to let them move into the upstairs portion of our house which was not being used at that time. They were having a house built near by, so we saw this as a way to help them out temporarily.
From that time forward, our lives were intertwined in various and sundry ways. Our children helped each other celebrate special occasions, even though there was a difference in age (until we each had our youngest 9 days apart). We shared home schooling projects and field trips. I remember being called by their oldest when his feet finally got big enough for a size 1 man shoe. They remember hearing my son quote catechism answers over the phone. I sobbed over the phone to Randie about how I had given up hope of a certain child ever learning to poop in the potty. My sons helped build the apartment behind their house. Their son has been a great encouragement to Strokeman in the past two years. Over time we both moved to different houses – and ended up less than half a mile from each other.
Randie is kind of the antithesis of me. There is nothing she can’t figure out how to build or sew. She has made costumes for her kids and mine, helped me fix my dishwasher and a garbage disposal, replace a toilet floor seal, wall paper, and who knows what I have forgotten to mention. She remembers my birthday every year, and used to make my favorite cake (until I begged her not to). She is a woman who invests her whole life into making her home a place of refuge for her family. My children have spent many an hour over at her house eating her chocolate chip cookies and enjoying the warmth of a second home.
On top of the usual family friends relationship, I have also had the blessing of having Steve as one of my elders. I never read a Proverb that I don’t remember something he has taught me about how the structure of a proverb influences its meaning. He baptized some of my children. Twice he has been instrumental in helping Strokeman and me over a particularly rough patch in our marriage. He came regularly to our house to help me learn to cope with the adjustments I had to make after the stroke; asking questions, offering not only biblical advice, but also hands on assistance. He came to rehab with us and learned how to do arm exercises. He assigned me a deacon and got things rolling for the men of the church to help me. He endured a profuse amount of sobbing from me, over and over and over.
Randie and Steve have been helping plant a church in a neighboring town. A few weeks ago, this church constituted and elected Steve to be their pastor. Not long after that, the “For Sale By Owner” sign went up in their yard. It is hard for me to even drive by their house any more without crying. I cannot express how much I will miss these people being in my life. Even though we would often let things distract us from spending time together, I gained a great deal of comfort knowing they were just around the corner. My only consolation is that they are leaving behind their adult children and four grandchildren, so I know they will be back on occasion. And yet, even in the grief I feel for having to let go of them, I rejoice, because I know that this is a good thing for them and for the new church. Even in the first days of shock over realizing they were phasing out of my life, I could see the goodness in this plan of the Lord. I can’t think of anyone better to start a new work than Steve and Randie. Who am I to want to selfishly hold on to them when God has chosen to use them elsewhere? They have spent a lot of years helping me get by. And so I pry my hand open and let them go with a chorus from a John Denver song:
“My friends, I will remember you,
think of you, pray for you,
And when another day is through,
I’ll still be friends with you.”