Two very good friends have just announced that they are moving abroad to work for a few years. Selfishly, I am devastated. They currently live an hour away and as they have two children the same age as Tom and Ben we see each other often and talk regularly. I feel reassured by their proximity. Whenever Matthew has to go away to work I call them and ask if the boys and I can come and stay. They are my sanctuary, a warm, friendly home where I can go and truly relax. So I feel bereft that they will no longer be there.
On Saturday is my book launch and I’ve realised that I will have to say goodbye to them that evening. I’m wanting to wail and cling on to them for protracted goodbyes but I know that they will just want a quick hug and be gone. I know this because that is how I did it six years ago when we first left to work abroad. When you are leaving all your friends and all your family you become numbed by goodbyes. You just want to get on with your new life and don’t have the time or emotional capacity to weep over everyone.
When we left, Matthew and I and held a party in London. I was so overwhelmed by everyone who came along I wondered why we were leaving them to go where we knew no-one. Friends add colour and depth to life. One of the hardest things about living abroad is missing the weddings of special friends. Momentous things happened to our friends while we were away and I’m sad we weren’t there to share them. But equally important are the new friends made on our postings. The wonderful people we met changed our attitude to and enjoyment of the countries we were in and our shared experiences are valuable memories.
I know that to be a good friend I’m going to have to take a deep breath and say goodbye to this couple without burdening them with my grief. They have enough emotions to deal with, packing up their home and wondering if they’ve made the right decision. We won’t loose touch - email and Skype have softened the isolation of being away. But it wont be the same as having them down the road.