Some of my earliest memories are of playing with my dear cousin.
Only a month separated our birthdays.
Our fathers were born only a year apart, in a family of nine children. Our fathers were best friends growing up and loved to sail and to camp together.
Our fathers’ love for camping carried over into their years as fathers. Every Memorial Day weekend and every Labor Day weekend, with few exceptions, our families would load up our station wagons and hook up our pop-up campers and would head to campgrounds.
At the campgrounds, we would roast marshmallows over an open campfire, play fun games, put on skits, learn to play my mom’s Autoharp, go swimming, play Shuffleboard, go miniature-golfing, ride bikes, and play volleyball.
I remember my cousin and I as little girls, with our heads bent over my mom’s Autoharp, learning to strum and play the correct notes.
I remember hours of playing card games inside our campers, while listening to the sounds of rain drumming on canvas.
I remember swinging on hammocks and sitting by campfires while playing the game “Concentration,” surrounded by all of our many aunts, uncles, and cousins.
I remember riding bikes down dirt paths, while sunlight filtered through tree leaves, creating patterns of “lace.”
I remember playing together at family gatherings on those hot, sweltering days of summer. I remember the storms that would come, forcing us all to pack under the “shelter” of a pavilion, while the area around was drenched in torrential downpours.
I remember Christmas get-togethers, where we would take turns pushing each other and my younger siblings around on the carts made for holding folding chairs.
I remember writing a book together, and I wonder if you still have it.
My memories continue into our growing up years, and our friendship never waned through those years.
We both separately visited foreign countries. We taught in different states at summer Bible clubs and camps and realized that we both loved teaching.
Then, there was college. College turned into graduation. Then, you were a beautiful bride, marrying a kind and good man.
A few years later, our mutual love for kids and teaching led us to the same school.
My wedding followed the completion of my second year at that school. You were one of my bridesmaids and a beautiful one too!
Then our first biggest good bye yet occurred. You and your dear husband headed off to teach in a mission school in Brazil.
When I saw you again, it was to celebrate the impending delivery of your first child. What a beautiful pregnant first-time mommy you were! You returned to Brazil, and I tried to keep in touch through regular reports and pictures of your adorable and growing son.
After completing another year of teaching in Brazil, you and your family returned to the States, where you settled a little over an hour from my home. We were both expecting our second babies at that time.
Babies followed babies. And somehow along the way, we both ended up with five children! Our children became great friends and could easily be mistaken as “first-cousins.”.
We moved closer to your home and were able to see each other on a regular basis, with field trips to historical places, fun-filled days at parks, sitting around the table playing games as families, camping together, and sharing countless laughs together.
Then life abruptly changed.
With tears streaming down both of our faces, you relayed the news of an impending move that would take your family miles, hours, states away. We’d “been down the road” before of saying good bye for a time. Yet somehow, this time it seems harder.
Perhaps, because it’s not just us saying good bye this time but now it’s our kids and our husbands. Perhaps because now we know so much more fully that time in this life is so fleeting, and our kids will soon be off on their own adventures. We wonder if we will still be able to be as fully engaged in each others’ lives, sharing each others’ kids as if they were our own.
As I acknowledge how painful this upcoming good bye will be, I know that our friendship will still span the miles, hours, and states. Our prayers and love for each other will embrace the distance to each others’ hearts and families.
I can release you because I know that we both have the same loving God, watching over each other. I can “rest” in the belief that He is a good God and that He has opened this door for you to walk through because He has “plans not to harm you but to give you a hope and a future.” He is Jehovah M’ Kaddesh, the God who abundantly supplies everything you need: spiritually, physically, emotionally, mentally, financially! He will take care of you.
So “good bye” my cousin, my dear friend… for “good bye” is never forever.