The Pandemic has made many of us think about losses as our lives have changed over the past year. We have lived with restrictions such as closed restaurants, hair salons, and social gatherings. We have missed family celebrations and graduations. As professionals who spend a lot of time traveling—especially internationally—that part of our lives shut down early in the time of Covid 19. The hardest losses have been friends, colleagues, loved ones. These losses are hard no matter when they happen, but the virus seemed to amplify death perhaps because we were reminded so often each day in the news. One positive outcome of the virus is that we have been able to virtually attend memorial services and celebrations of life, which likely would not have happened prior to the pandemic.
SIETAR USA has lost a Board member (Sherri Tapp) and a beloved past president (Andy Reynolds). Like many SIETAR USA members I’ve talked with, I have lost several close friends who have passed away in recent months. I heard from a friend that when we lose a person to death, the person is gone but the relationship remains. I had to think about that to decide if I agreed. It is often true that when the person was alive communication was spotty. We communicated fairly frequently, but sometimes with long gaps in between. Even with the gaps, I still considered the person a friend or loved one and valued the relationship that we had created. So, it makes a certain sense that the relationship was alive even when we were not in frequent contact.
A friendship can be seen to comprise 3 entities: you, the other, and the relationship itself. Does that mean the relationship can live on even though the person is gone? You can no longer pick up the phone for a call or send an email and expect a response. But is that all a friendship is? (And I think that the luckiest among us are the ones who are in positive contact with their family members.) Isn’t friendship also about the feelings and the experience of the other person and the memories of good times together? I have found it comforting with recent losses to remember that we had connected as two human beings, enjoyed our time together, and I do feel that the relationship is, in a way, indeed still there.
The SIETAR USA webinar in June features Daniel Yalowitz who just published Reflections on the Nature of Friendship. He writes: “Friendships offer clues to our deeper inner and outer selves. They are manifestation of our values as well as our priorities. And they provide tremendous information about our hopes, dreams, struggles, affirmations, and challenges.” I began writing this message thinking it was about loss and realize now that it isn’t about loss but rather it is about living and remembering and connecting. To all my SIETAR friends, I want to say how much you have enriched my life. Thank you!
Editor The Interculturalist: A Periodical of SIETAR USA