I was finishing a walk through our neighborhood when I caught sight of something that took my breath away. It was a glimpse of my friend's old home. Her house was perfectly framed by pink blossoming trees. Their petals were cascading down to color the sidewalk. Her house was both a memory and a mirage. I remembered what once was and ached for what could have been. In a moment I daydreamed we could be drinking coffee and chatting while our little ones ran beneath those pink trees. But she was gone. Her family was now states away as her husband did his residency. They were loving life, closer to family, developing and changing. This house and these trees served as reminders of the ever-evolving nature of relationships and the fluidity of time. Of what was, what could have been, and what is.
I haven't always been the friend I hoped to be. My move to Seattle from my small hometown of twenty-six years sealed that in my mind. After moving I longed for my friends "back home." Those who loved me through turbulent times, times I acted carelessly. Distance from these faithful friends clarified their preciousness and made me want to be a better friend despite distance.
But what did it mean to be a better friend? How could I maintain friendship across states, when my life (in the form of a spirited two-year-old) hardly permits an uninterrupted phone call? How could I stay in touch, share in their lives, and express genuine love and caring?
A friend and fellow Seattleite shared wise words with me soon after we transplanted. She explained that for her, staying in touch took many forms. Since people communicate differently, long distance friendships must adapt to these preferred forms of communication.
With some friends, it's a phone call. With others, a lengthy conversation through text messages that can trail on for several days. And with others, I try to involve myself in their social media lives, send little love packages, or pen hand-written letters. I love that this diversity of communication reflects so beautifully the uniqueness of each one of my friends.
My friend who lived in the house surrounded by pink trees was one of the first I made in Seattle. Early on I knew we would stay friends no matter where life took us. In a time filled with change and uncertainty, she was an encouragement and a steady presence. She reminded me that I am not in it alone. We are not in it alone. Despite the ebb and flow of relationships, the impermanence of time and place, and the unpredictability of circumstances, we have endless ways to remind each other that we care, that our friendships matter.
Today I am encouraged to be a better friend by the longtime friends who remain dear to me and by the new friends I have gained in our beloved new city. Do you have friendships that have withstood the test of time and dramatic life changes? I'd love to hear about your friends and your strategies for staying connected.