The past week and a half have been tear filled days. Our family is experiencing a loss right now, one that touches very deeply and makes it difficult for me to even write about it without crying.
Three years ago we became friends with a very, very special family...the kind of friends that come along once in a lifetime. For some reason, our families just "clicked" even though someone on the outside looking in might not really understand why...our kids were different ages and genders, we come from very different backgrounds, we have different professions.
And yet, despite our differences, the core values were the same...a deep and abiding love for our families, a relaxed and laid back approach to life, homes filled with laughter, and our need to budget blended with our desire to still take trips and explore.
We have traveled together, played together (Another round of Rumikub anyone??), watched movies together, eaten together, prayed together, laid floors together, plastered walls together and watched our children grow together.
Our friends are now about to begin a new life, it is time for them to move on...something we knew was coming but had hoped would be delayed a little longer. Ironically, or perhaps in yet another way that God speaks to us, they will be residing in a home not more than 3 miles from where Dominick grew up.
In spite of our sorrow, we are filled with joy for this wonderful family. They are walking straight into an opportunity that will meet their every need...a new adventure in life. We also wish we could cling to them much, much longer. To say they will be missed is a ludicrous understatement, to say that their departure will leave a gaping hole in our hearts is much closer to the truth.
As we sit around the dinner table together, trying to squeeze in as many laughs as we can, we all promise this will not be the end of our friendship, it will just take on a new life. It will make the times precious when we are together, it will give us something to look forward to when we plan to see one another.
And still I wonder, will this really be the end? Will we drift apart after the first couple of visits as others so often do despite their vows that they will remain fast friends forever? As the day to day interaction ceases, will the bond slowly unravel regardless of our best efforts to retain it?
Or will we beat the odds and will this truly be one of those wonderful family friendships that you sometimes read about jealously in magazines as couples describe how they get together at their beach houses for reunions (ok...none of us can afford the beach house, but you get my drift! Hahaha), and they have group photos taken over the years of adventures they have shared together when they do meet. I guess time will tell.
It is at times like these, when it hurts so badly to have loved someone and then they leave for whatever reason, that you wonder if it is worth the risk to place your heart on your sleeve for all to see, to open your life to others and to give of yourself. Would it be easier to just lead a life of quiet solitude, forsaking any deep relationships for fear of the pain that might be experienced later? Or do we wade wantonly into the fray, professing the depth of our emotions for others, fearlessly looking them in the eye and saying "I love you.". We often don't think about such things when it comes to friendships, as that seems more suited for romantic relationships. However, through the years I have found that we can be hurt just as badly from the broken bonds of friendship as we can from the broken promises of a romantic companion. Sometimes saying the words is so hard, admitting what we feel for another is so scary...what if they reject us? What if it doesn't work? What if they think I am a goofball?
Or what if they return it full force and you would have missed out on one of the best things to ever cross your path?
Well, luckily, this family accepts it and returns it all ten fold. We all love them so much, I love their children as if they were my own...and I have seen the joy and pleasure they get from ours as well. I have learned more than I can ever express from them, I have become a better mother and wife as they have taught me how to accept myself as I am and not to fret about others' opinions. Joshie has benefited so much from the loving kindness shown him by each member of their family, Matthew has had the best role model I ever could have asked for in their kind and respectful teenaged son, and Kenny was so warmly received by them and gained instant acceptance from the moment he joined our family. Dominick found a friend who understood him and had the same playful nature.
Was it worth the risk, even though we knew full well it wouldn't remain part of our daily life forever?
You bet it was, and we'd do it all again if we had to.
Never again will I sing Happy Birthday without also wanting to hear it in Afrikaans, I will still think of chutney as disgusting but as my friend's favorite condiment, and I will never have my camera in my hands without thinking of my dear photo buddy.
So now we face a long goodbye as they prepare to leave and we prepare to accept their departure. The kids have cried, and will most certainly cry again on the day they pull away from the curb. So will we, without a doubt. And yet we will look forward with delight to the next time we see one another.
And I hope, with all my heart, that they know how loved they are in the LaJoy house, and I am so glad that we all stood up fearlessly and jumped into it with both feet.
We are all better for it.