Like small, delicate, little bubble worlds unto ourselves we emerge, take shape, grow, travel, and move. And then we meet others, at a particular moment for (what we may not always realize is) an indeterminate amount of time. Sometimes we touch. We cling. We gather and crowd. Then other times we separate. Eventually, at some point, one or both or all move away, go away, disappear. There are others, of course. Always others. But there was also that one. Those few. Those others before. And for that time, while we were, we were close. Extraordinarily close.
There are different ways in which the most special people can come and go throughout our lives – as parents, children, mentors, friends, lovers, or even as rare, valuable acquaintances. Sometimes a close other need be known as nothing more or less than another wonderful person who was with us, whether for years or even just a short while. For the most part, when they are there, we are present. We laugh. We listen. We look. We are. We simply do the things of life like eat, work, play, sleep, talk, walk, sit, and think. Perhaps nothing unusual or very different from what we typically do with most other people has to occur in order for us to feel a unique pleasure, comfort, and bond with them. In fact, maybe it is precisely when we can do these things with another person (and do them well), the small and simple things, that their peculiar importance is most powerfully felt. It is their presence, that closeness, throughout the everyday that means so much.
While we are in it we might never guess that the good things between us could or would change or end. We, of course, would hardly ever seem to want this or will it. Hence, we make promises and proclamations to be best friends forever. These are not always empty. They can reflect a fullness of hope and meaning. We make commitments of eternal love. These are not always false promises made in bad faith. They can be honest testimonies of our deeply-felt experiences. We share everything and invest so much to have it be just as it is. We give to them – the other – and pour into it – the connection – because this is exactly what creates, supports, and maintains such a special experience. We become so close because we are so close.
Then, as always has been and will be the case, things change. People go away.
Separations, like connections, can also take many forms. Unexpected death from an accident or illness can take us by surprise (though the sense of loss is hardly mitigated if the likelihood of one’s own or another’s death is acknowledged ahead of time). A reluctant count-down might attend a slowly-approaching departure to another city after a graduation, for a new job, for a new opportunity, for anything new. There are also times when people exist near one another but simply grow apart. These things happen. Very frequently, you know.
Some difficulty arises if we begin to think that the ways in which our lives change, we change, and our relationships and the closest people around us change somehow undermine the legitimacy or validity of the experiences we shared with those others. As if something so good must last. As if it could. Nevertheless, temporary though they may be or have been, our experiences are and were as they are and were. All of it just is and was as it is and was. In this way, the closeness, the separation, and even ourselves, might be understood as “okay.”
Of course such change can be painful – even exceptionally so – for it is that remarkable closeness that makes the separation so difficult, the sense of loss so much. But perhaps, in spite of or maybe even because of this, one might consider the experience of separation to be the most desirable pain. For at least while we had that closeness we loved and knew that we were loved. We were seen. We were taken care of. We were. Together. And that is something quite remarkable. To have this experience once is incredible. To have it more is amazing. To have it in the past is fortunate. To have it in the present is important. To have it in the future is likely. So remember.