I’m sitting at Gate C25 at DIA, waiting for my flight to Chicago. I’m flying there to see my soul friend, Becca, who moved in July. We’ve only talked a handful of times since she moved. Spotty cell phone service and weak wifi signal in rural Michigan, along with a two hour time difference have made it hard to keep in touch regularly.
But this weekend we have a 48 kid-free, husband-free hours to catch up. We will drink margaritas and pig out on deep dish pizza. We will figure out how to make a cross country friendship flourish.
It’s been a weird season. The pandemic has extended much, much longer than most people anticipated. We thought my this time (almost two full years into it) that life would pretty much be back to normal, but Omicron has started spreading like crazy, causing new mask mandate, increased testing and new lockdowns.
We are staying at a nice hotel right in the heart of downtown Chicago. I haven’t been to Chicago since I lived there my last semester of college. That was in the spring of 2000. 22 years ago. (How is that real?)
Last time I was in Chicago, I hadn’t even met Becca. Our paths crossed a couple years later in the newly built halls of Compassion International. We quickly realized we were kindred spirits, sharing a lot of family similarities and childhood experiences, matching personalities and even 2 of 3 of our names.
As the years went by, we shared life, a workplace, houses and friend groups. Becca jet set around the world to exotic places like the Dominican Republic and Austria and got herself a Masters degree. While she was living in Europe, I found out that a friend of mine, Steve, was visiting his sister in Vienna and suggested they might be a good match. (Spoiler: I was right.) A few years later we were attending their wedding.
As time went on, our husbands ended up as coworkers at Compassion, our kids were best buddies and we again shared life, this time as married friends with young kiddos. Six years of community group, meeting every other week, sharing meals, holidays and creating annual traditions. Our kids considered Becca and Steve as second parents. In fact, we literally rewrote our will to give Becca and Steve custody of our kids if something tragic were to happen.
They are those friends you might find one (maybe twice if you’re lucky) in a lifetime. Bosom friends, Anne Shirley calls them. They are the type of friends on whom we could just drop by unannounced, any time, day or night. We shared garage door codes. Our house was their house and their house was ours. At various times, various members of us stayed in each other’s basements. We envisioned the future memories we’d share. Our kids growing up together. Going through the angsty teen years together. Being in each others weddings. Us having rooms next to each other in the old folks home.
When Chris and I were struggling, it was their house that alternatively he or I would go to. When Chris moved out, they were the friends who set aside their evening plans, ignored the awkward that is always a part of someone else’s marital conflict, and showed up to walk with us through it.
So when Steve and Becca made the difficult decision in July to move across the country to Steve’s family in Michigan, it was a shock. I battled misplaced feelings of grief and betrayal, mixed with loyalty and a knowing that they were making the right decision for their family and if I truly loved them, I’d let them go.
For me the loss came in the midst of a series of other things I was giving up, some of them by choice. My sister moved. I quit a job that I loved. Covid had taken plans for a big family trip to NYC. Michigan was taking my friends. I was having to learn to let go and surrender what I wanted over and over again.
However, despite the fact that it feels like a loss, the friendship will not actually end. It will just change. We may never experience the level of friendship like we had with the Biels again and while that feels like a loss, at least we got to have it for a decade.
So I go into this weekend with a deep feeling of gratitude for what we had. For what we still have, albeit in this new season. Friendship – real, deep and authentic relationship – is perhaps God’s biggest gift to us this side of heaven.