Not Goodbye, just Au Revoir to a Ya-Ya

It's been an emotional weekend and I am exhausted. Many regular readers might know that I am Christian and that one of my best friends is a vicar whose team of churches included my own village church.

You see I used the past tense there.  My friend is starting a new job in a couple of weeks so this weekend we spent Sunday paying tribute to her and her work and ministry in our Team Parish.

A few facts here for those who aren't familiar with Anglicanism. Vicars (or priests - the word is interchangeable) can be male or female, married or unmarried and are not posted army-style to a parish.

They apply for jobs and are free to move on or stay as they wish, although they are generally encouraged to make changes after about 5-10 years in each job for a variety of reasons including their own mental and spiritual health.

Anyway, I digress. This weekend was all about my friend and her lovely husband (who I also count as a friend!). I have been ignoring the fact that they will be moving since they broke the news a few months ago, ruining a perfectly lovely night out.

As one who is quite active in the church I have been involved in planning their farewell party and what we will do as a leaderless church during the interregnum - a deliberate break in between priests. It has distracted me somewhat.

But still their leaving has been a giant sparkly elephant in the room.

You see the woman I first met at her licensing to our parish six years ago has seen our family through thick and thin, despite the fact when I first saw her and heard her gentle voice I was sure we wouldn't get on!
My friend Presiding over our 20th wedding anniversary renewal of vows 

We have shed tears through stressful times, hard times and downright miserable times. We have cackled and giggled and rolled with laughter. We have shared secrets and hopes and dreams, fears and frustrations. She helped me plan our 20th wedding anniversary service (pretty much another wedding!) 3 years ago, led it and loaned her garden for the party.

She is one of my Ya-Ya's.

I love the book "The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood" by Rebecca Wells. A story of friends who despite moving apart geographically maintain the levels of friendship they had when they were children who grew up like sisters.

It's true, for me, that I have some friends who no matter where they live or how long it has been since I have seen them, we can pick up like we had coffee yesterday.

"Some women pray for their daughters to marry good husbands. I pray that my girls will find girlfriends half as loyal and true as the Ya-Yas" Rebecca Wells, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.

I hope my feeling that this is the case with my friend proves true. Her last service in our church was tragically hilarious. Every time I caught her eye we both started welling up. Not so bad for me near the back but awkward for her at the front. When it was my turn to lead prayers I studiously ignored her- it was the only way I could get through them without blubbing. And I am not the blubbing type.

It didn't help that my normally stoic 6-year-old started crying during the service howling "I don't want her to leave." He was a newborn when she arrived and so has grown up with her, and her whole family as, well, family.

You know how some people, when they're together, they somehow make you feel more hopeful? Make you feel like the world is not the insane place it really is?”

It's silly really. We already have plans to meet up and I will be going to her licensing at her new post in just a few weeks time. My children who adore her have blagged promises of visits and possibly even sleepovers. I am sure that the Christmas Day we shared this year won't be the last. I'm sure there will be more of our respective family events we will share together. Weddings, Baptisms, significant birthdays, funerals.....

But I will miss working with her in church, plotting and planning grand schemes to excite and educate the congregation and those less churched. I will miss our impromptu shopping trips (generally scouring charity shops) and chats over a cuppa after school run. I will miss waving as we pass on the road out of the village - both of us busy women with a shared faith and sense of humour.

“Of all the secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood the most divine was humor.” 

I will miss planning fancy dress costumes, menus, craft activities and worship strategies. But mostly I will miss her voice, Calming, cheering, whispering, reassuring, advising. She even has a Marks and Spencer voice.  As in, "It's not just a blessing. It's a Marks and Spencer blessing."

Luckily we live in an age where technology makes miles disappear. If only she would turn her flipping mobile phone on once in a while!

Bye Jo - or should I say, Au Revoir.

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