It’s not I but my friend Sarah who left today. Like, moved, for real and forever, perhaps.
Here we were on Friday in her now-empty, sun-lit family room.
It was her final day in her home, which happens to be just due north of our home, on the other side of the school that comes in between. We just found out, on Friday, that we moved into this neighborhood the same year. Only we didn’t know of one another at the time.
Well, I knew of Sarah through her brother, a priest whom I very much admire. I knew he had a sister in town, and that she had five kids, and a statue of Mary in her front yard. But I didn’t know she was so physically near to me. I had no idea.
Then last year, at a couple’s night out hosted by our church, we landed at the same table. Imagine our surprise when mentioning where in Fargo we lived, we both said the same thing. “We live by (school).” “Really? We do too!”
And then this fall we ended up in a Bible study together, and that sort of sealed the deal for what has become a flowering friendship built on faith.
Sarah is one of those people that brings life to a room. The two of us often arrived together to our study group. With so many details to tend to before walking out the door, we’d almost always come a little late, flying in together, giggling at our similar habits and inability to be early.
Sarah is the kind of person who, when things get heavy and deep, can immediately bring light and clarity and joy to a situation. It’s a gift, and we all knew it, but you kind of take it for granted. You just assume, well, this is the way it will always be. This person will always be around to sprinkle joy like this.
And then the announcement, and the “for sale” sign, and the goodbye party, and the attempt to put on a happy face. Because as Christians, we know that we never really say goodbye, and that it’s selfish, really, to think that we ought to have a person all to ourselves. Especially when someone brings joy, we know well that God is likely wanting them to spread that around a little. And yet, we can admit it. It’s still hard. Especially when it’s someone like Sarah.
And we both felt and verbalized this, too: a tinge of regret. To think that all those years, we could have been stopping by one another’s home for tea, coffee, to commiserate about some of the challenges of being in the club of Moms of 5. Not only Moms of 5, but moms who both experienced a sixth pregnancy after child number two, along with the loss of that third child. And each of us, not knowing of the other at the time, named our child who made that quick trip to heaven “Gabriel.”
God’s ways are surprising, and often not predictable. I had been getting to know Sarah more this year, and then, right at the end, in those sacred hours before leaving for good, she opened up her home to me, emptied out the contents of her fridge, brought me on a tour of her empty house, and cried with me over things that are on my mother heart, not to mention rejoiced with me over good things that are happening. It was a meeting that might have seemed too late, and yet it gave us a chance to laugh when her teenage son, promising to take a nice photo of us, decided to click prematurely to get this lovely shot (Sarah is very expressive and uses lots of hand gestures, and I love her all the more for it!):
We could go on mourning lost chances, or perhaps it would be much better to see the blessing that we did meet after all. Because as we hugged goodbye, the moving van looming large and long and sucking the contents of her home to be transported hundreds of miles from our Fargo neighborhood…
…I felt something happening. The deepening of a bond that, though late in coming perhaps, came all the same. And because we live in the age we do, this separation does not have to be so hard. We can stay in touch, continue to share the highs and lows, be comrades to one another in the journey ahead.
I’m trying to focus on that now. I must. Because saying goodbye is hard no matter what. It just is. But this isn’t the end. This is, in a way, the beginning. God found a way to bring us together late, so there must be a reason for that. I am eager to learn what He has in mind for this friendship, even from afar.
Now, more than ever, we’re counting on those little ones, those third babies who slipped past us all too quickly, our children we did not have adequate time to love, to be lights to us, and intercede from above. Sarah, in particular, needs a few prayers as she makes this move to her new home in Colorado, where her husband has been already working at his new job for a while now.
I can’t help but call upon St. Raphael, patron saint of travelers, to help usher her through. It’s a good one to have near for anyone who will be traveling at any point in the future. It is not just about the traveling, but what we’re to find along the way and on the other side.
“O Raphael, lead us toward those we are waiting for, toward those who are waiting for us: Raphael, Angel of happy meeting, lead us by the hand toward those we are looking for. May all our movements be guided by your light and transfigured with your joy.
“Angel, guide of Tobias, lay the request we now address to you at the feet of Him on whose unveiled face you are privileged to gaze. Lonely and tired, crushed by the separations and sorrows of life, we feel the need of calling you and of pleading for the protection of your wings, so that we may not be as strangers in the province of joy, all ignorant of the concerns of our country. Remember the weak, you who are strong, you whose home lies beyond the region of thunder, in a land that is always peaceful, always serene and bright with the resplendent glory of God.
Ah, Sarah, I miss you already, but I feel so blessed to have known you in any measure. I am already anticipating the next hug with those incredible Colorado mountains that beckon so beautifully in the background!
Q4U: When did a meeting that seemed to come too late become a blessing to you all the same?