Moving? How to say your goodbyes well. Grief and Reverberation
“You were in an opera?!” exclaimed our round of friends at the table, surprised to discover Drew's past. He is a gourmet by night and a gunner in the military by day (and night). Plus, he is super tall. He sings too?! We are moving soon. So, we invited our dearest old pals over for a meal and invited a new friend too. A woman we just met last week named Krystal. It says a lot about her, that she'd be willing to invest into a relationship with us knowing we would be moving in just three weeks time.
I like people who aren't afraid to make friends knowing they will lose them.
We are military and we deal with daddy gone a lot. During a play-date years ago, the mom told me its hard being a civilian in a military community. I wondered why. She told me because she didn't want her three year old getting too attached to friends and then have to say goodbye. She is a precious woman and our daughter's really loved each other, but obviously we never dug deep in friendship. And that's a shame. Her daughter's gonna miss out on some precious friendships living that way. She will too. And God may move that sweet family to minister in a different town even before we PCS.
Nothing is permanent.
Our military neighbor here was likewise surprisingly open with how she weighed, check and balanced relationships that she wanted to invest in. They decided they'd retire here and wanted to only really be friends with neighbors who weren't going to be moving due to military. The irony... the locals who all spoke of retiring here moved away well before we did and then our stint was extended by a whole year. Now this woman is moving herself to a whole different state!
No one knows the future.
Just before I met my husband, I heard a sermon that I knew was important for me. A very simple sermon. But something in me knew I needed to get and keep this message with me forever. The message—wherever you go, whether you are there for two weeks or ten years, dig in deep with the people around you. Even if its a short time of transition, love those around you as if you will live there forever.
In short, bloom where you are planted. That is sage, people.
That's what our new friend Krystal did when she accepted our invitation and came to dinner. She's being brave. She's willing to love knowing there will be loss. I was too. I could've easily thought, “We are moving. These are our precious friends and this is likely the last time we'll get to have them over for dinner again.” I could've been selfish with that time and not share it with someone new. And honestly part of me wanted to...
But she was like fresh wind to beloved old friendships. The conversation was light and musical. And her questions brought us to find out that our buddy, gunner and gourmet, was also a singer in an opera!
Drew described the old chapel they performed in. How it was exquisitely beautiful and carefully designed for reverberation. Reverb.
“What's reverberation mean?” I asked, knowing nothing of music but melody.
He explained that it's the way sound waves remain moving through the air after a sound is produced. It's the way sound lingers and fills the chapel for moments after the song is over.
Drew told the story. They were singing “When David Heard” an eight-part harmony. An incredible composition. And the score and the chapel and the voices all work together to fill the air with sound and life and breath, even after the song is over.
He chucked to himself remembering the performance. He waited in perfect Drew fashion for us to pry out the rest of the story. (He is very good at the art of story telling. Like old-man-in-overalls-good at story telling.)
We took the bait! “Why are you laughing?”
"Our conductor got so mad!" Drew was back in that moment after the performance. Drew explained with gusto, “If you don't know when to clap, then don't be the first person to clap!”
Krystal and I looked at each other across the table with big wide eyes. Clearly, neither of us should ever be the first person to clap. Apparently, someone started clapping too soon. So, everyone did. And the whole crescendo of the piece, the grande finale and the way it lingers and resonates... it was all lost due to premature celebration.
I can't stop thinking of this moment. The way he described it. The sheer disappointment of investing hard work and orchestrating the right voices with the right space... all truncated. Like somebody licked the foam off your steamer! The grief of knowing what that moment could have been.
This is a season of change. And I see in people all around me that temptation. They clap too soon. The say, “Oh, it's been great knowing you. Great having you as neighbors,” as soon as they find our we are moving. And then they move away in their hearts before we ever even have a sign out in the front of the house. They distance themselves. They don't linger. They don't savor every last drop of the relationship.
In my last weeks here, I have been invited into even more meaningful levels with friendship with them. I've been given treasures of gifts, time, and priority that symbolize sonship and sisterhood.
If we'd distanced ourselves, if we'd clapped too soon, I would have missed the best part of my whole time here!
In saying goodbye, as in grieving loss, let's finish well.
Let's not choose the superficial and distant over a chapel filled with presence, breath, glory. And tears.
Last Sunday, I wept on the shoulder of a woman who labored over me in prayer and raised me here in my spirit. She loves me like a mother loves her child. It was a precious sliver of time that I will not forget.
As I regrouped and headed home through the foyer, I saw an old acquaintance I hadn't seen in a long time. “Where have you been???” I asked her. She told me they've been avoiding church for the last six months ever since they got orders to move and this was her last Sunday. Six months.
I am blessed to have a few who are enjoying the last few lines of opera with me. And I don't suspect they'll throw themselves into a quick applause of busyness when we depart, just to avoid the pain of absence. They will welcome the resonance of our friendship, the memories, the grief of goodbye.... They will let it linger.
I will too.