Pizza, Tacos and the Burnsai

I think I was in 6th grade when I last felt something like I am right now. Caron Gokey was the kind of friend that everyone wanted to be around. She was fun and spunky and totally confident in who she was. She wore Laura Ingalls-like braids and made them look cool. And I specifically remember belting out a bedroom mirror duet of Prince’s “1999” with hair-brush microphones and costumes of some sort. When I was around Caron, I forgot my troubles and just had fun. Then came the day she told us she was moving. All my friends were sad. I remember being among a group of weeping girls in school, all feeling like it was unfair. It was a deep sadness that I hadn’t ever encountered. I’d had friends move before that and I was sad about it but this was especially sad because everyone felt the loss and because Caron was a ray of sunshine. No one wanted her to leave.

I never saw her again. I don’t even remember where she moved to anymore. We may have written a letter or two but distance faded the friendship and I was left with a few fond memories.

I’m thinking about Caron today because I’m watching my kids navigate the loss of their friends who moved to Phoenix last weekend. The loss of our friends, really. I miss them all too. Sometimes you lose a friend to a move, but it’s a rare occasion when you lose eight friends at once. Yet that’s how it feels with this family because each member has been such a ray of sunshine in our lives.

The Unforgettable Burnsai

The Unforgettable Burnsai (photo credit Sjbridgeman Photography…used with permission)

The Burns family (whom my 15yr old renamed “The Burnsai” because how else would you pluralize “Burns”?) lived in our area for three years but it was really only this last year that we got to know them. Jen and I had tried to schedule a couple of family get-togethers yet they had always fallen through. picstitchBut in the first week of January 2012 we were on the calendar and our families were finally going to hang out together. Until I got the flu and we had to reschedule again and with a family of 6 trying to match up schedules with a family of 8, that took almost two months. So it was the end of February when we first got together and what I noticed immediately after they left that night was that we had finally found a family that everyone in my family loved to be with. That doesn’t happen often. My kids range from 8-17 so finding another local family where everyone has someone to hang out with is extremely rare. (The Burnsai kids range from 8-16.) From that night my kids started begging for another get-together and Jen told me her kids did too. We began scheduling more Burnsai visits and everyone looked forward to those nights. My kids don’t agree on many things. Other than their awesome parents, grandparents, etc. I can really only think of three things they all love: Pizza, Tacos and the Burnsai. I fully expected to have those three things in our lives for at least the next few years. Sigh.

So when they told me they were moving to Arizona to be closer to Jen’s extended family, I was stunned. It just felt too soon. Quietly, I was devastated because I was losing a precious friend and so were my kids. But what amazed me was the number of people with those same sentiments once the move was widely known. I’ve never seen anything like it. Our entire circle of friends was devastated. It was like Caron Gokey times a hundred!

From the time we found out they were leaving, our oldest five kids spent as much time together as possible. Someone said, “Why would you do that? You’ll just make it harder when it’s time to say goodbye.” That’s probably true. But I told my kids then and I still believe it now, after the horrific goodbyes, that I’d rather they love deeply and hurt deeply than keep themselves from loving to avoid the pain.


More than once I heard Jen say she felt like she was attending her own wake. It did feel like that. My daughter, “Seventeen” said the other day, “Mom, I just lost my three best friends.” This from a girl who doesn’t really talk about how she feels and certainly never cries, yet I’ve seen more tears from her this week than I have in five years. A number of our friends spent the weekend together before the family left early Monday morning. Have you ever been in a room where sixteen kids were weeping and hugging and saying goodbye? Take it from me. It’s overwhelming and heart-wrenching but incredibly sweet at the same time.

So, how do you help your kids deal with life realities like this? People move. It’s part of life. But telling a teenager “That’s just the way it is,” doesn’t really work. I’m trying to help them walk the balance between encouraging their friends in their new adventure and being real about how much they miss them. It’s okay for them to be sad. It’s okay for them to mourn the loss of the time they’re used to spending together. They’re also mourning the loss of their expectations. They expected to continue getting together a couple times a week. They expected to have each other’s company at church and youth group each week. They expected to celebrate birthdays together. Now they have to find a new normal as long distance friends. But that’s not impossible.

A friend said to me, “We may be losing them as neighbors but not as friends.” That’s true. The world is a very different place than it was when Caron Gokey moved. We didn’t have cell phones, text messages, Facebook or even internet then. (Yes, I’m old.) So while this definitely changes the friendship, it doesn’t end it. I may not have five teens sitting on my couch a couple nights a week (sniff) but we get daily video messages and Seventeen and I have a new destination for our mother-daughter trip this summer after she graduates. I am truly grateful for the time we’ve had together as families, even if it was only for a short time. And who knows what the future holds…maybe we’ll end up in the same town again some day. For now, I guess we will just settle for more pizza and tacos.


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  1. Rebekah, I love this post…in a bitter sweet sort of way. I’m so sad that you’ve all had to navigate the hard parts of saying goodbye and now long distance friendships…I love where you say

    “So, how do you help your kids deal with life realities like this? People move. It’s part of life. But telling a teenager “That’s just the way it is,” doesn’t really work.”

    and then talk about how they also have to deal with unmet expectations…I never thought about it that way, but you are so right!

    The beauty of it all is that God wove the Burns family into the fabric of your family life and now it will be there forever! Even though you didn’t know they were going to move so soon God did and yet he still wanted you all to connect as deeply as you did because close or far those are now forever friendships!

    We had some similar moments when we left MA four years ago…one of my closest friends is still there– sometimes I call her my “soul friend” because we have SOOO much in common. While I miss being a part of her day to day world, I am SOOO thankful that she will always be part of my life and when we talk on the phone or visit each other we ALWAYS pick up right where we left off…I know it will be the same for all of you (:

    • Thank you Lisa! I did think about the fact that I was just thankful that we had them in our lives for as long as we did…but I never thought about the fact that God knew all along it would only be for a short while. I take comfort in that 🙂

      And I have a few “soul friends” around the country (I’m actually writing this from the spare bedroom of one such friend). I love how we can get together and it’s always as if no time has passed. One of those friends refers to me (and I to her) as her “bosom friend.” I think that’s from Anne of Green Gables and I love it…same thing as soul friend. And I told Jen when she left that I knew we would have that kind of friendship.

      Thanks, as always, for your comment. Bloggers unite! 😉 haha.

  2. This story really touched me. We are a military family that has moved 9 times in the last 18 years and are going to be moving again soon. It is now getting harder on my 2 older kids and I have sat in our kitchen, praying and crying with close friends as we say goodbye. I think this upcoming move will be our hardest yet! But is is amazing how we now have great friends across this great nation!

    • Hi Heather,
      I’m sad for you and your 2 oldest. It’s no fun saying goodbye but at least with technology it’s easier to stay in touch these days! Just today I read something in Beth Moore’s Bible study on David. She was talking about the friendship between David and Jonathan and how God brought them together. She called that kind of friendship “uncommon” but she said, “Uncommon friends can stay close even at a distance.” I found that to be a comforting thought. And I have a few of those uncommon friendships that have stood the test of time and distance. I’m thankful for those and I’m sure you have the same. Good luck with your next move and thanks for stopping by my blog 🙂

  3. I didn’t even know the Burnsai and I felt sad when they moved because I knew your hearts were breaking! XOXO -Karen

  4. So that’s who he is, I’ve seen him on the plateform a few times, but just another person to me. I’m glad you have him and his family as your friends. Many of my firends come and go, some I have stayed in contact over the years, and some-well, just are somewhere. I would love to meet up with one day some of these friends. I will let you know however I did meet up with many friends back in the summer of 2009 and it had been almost 35 years that I had seen or some I hadn’t heard from those years gone by. You’ll be friends forever and probably you’ll go and visit with them.

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