We live in an increasingly mobile, fluid and transient society. Gone are the days when most people grew up, worked, retired and died in the same area. A variety of factors -- including work, education, marriage and re-marriage -- conspire to shuffle individuals and families across the nation and the world in a real-life game of musical chairs. As a consequence, we often find ourselves saying goodbye to a close friend or family member, and faced with the challenge of how to honor and maintain contact with that person.
Our fondest memories of the people who mean the most to us almost always involve stories. When two friends or family members reunite after a period of separation, they invariably start speaking in sentences that begin, "Remember when..." So in person, or better yet, in a letter -- a memento your loved one can hold onto forever -- relate your favorite stories of your shared time together.
Say Thank You
We sometimes assume that the people close to us know how important they are to us and the reasons we love them. Often, however, this is not the case. The occasion of saying goodbye provides an excellent excuse to come out and say all those things that so often go unspoken in a close relationship. Both in writing and in person, come straight out and tell the person moving away why she is important to you and what you will miss about her. Thank her for those special qualities.
Identify Common Ground
In the time you share before the other moves away, and in your goodbye notes, identify common areas of interest. This not only solidifies your memory of your time together, but provides a basis for staying connected. For instance, if you both love movies, make a list of movies you will both see and compare over the phone or Internet. If you both love books, buy your friend one of your favorites and inscribe it with a personal message.
Make Plans for the Future
Goodbyes are less heartbreaking when you make specific plans for staying connected with the person moving away. If possible, make plans for one person to visit the other, or compromise and plan to meet at a mid-point. If such travel is not feasible, make plans for writing or calling at regular intervals. Buy a shared journal that you can send back and forth in the mail, and write down some of your favorite memories before handing it off.