In Zapotec, an indigenous language in Oaxaca, key-alazón-lù means both “I love you” and “I miss you.” I was reminded of that linguistic curiosity (taught to me by a sister from Oaxaca) this past week, as I said goodbye to the friends, families, and communities in Puebla.
To love and to miss seem to be inseparable realities. When we ourselves or our friends move on, we aren’t meant to hold tightly to those whom we love but rather be deeply grateful for the parts they have played in our lives and the experiences we have lived together.
I have often written about the families divided across borders but what few have explored are the friendships divided across borders. Migrants often describe to me how they miss their friends in the US. The ones who made them feel welcome when they arrived. The roommate that shared a tiny space in NY. The soccer team friends. The work friends. They talk about the many countries from which their friends came: India, China, El Salvador, Italy, and others. They speak about what they learned from these friendships and these different perspectives on the world. In a sense, because of the shared experiences in the US, their friends understand a piece of them that their family members and neighbors in Mexico can never fully grasp. Over the years, they have fallen out of touch yet the memory of that chapter remains strong and they continue to love and miss their friends.
I can understand a bit of how that feels. In my two months in Puebla I was shocked at how, in such a short time, certain people and families drew me out of my loneliness and helped me feel at home. I cherished visiting one family, where the kids would follow me around talking over each other and trying to get a word in edgewise. I treasured the sunsets I got to watch with an older woman in the community as we discussed life. I was delighted by invitations to spontaneous meals or celebrations. The families that I met in Puebla are a part of me, a part that cannot be recreated or fully understood in another context. I love them and I miss them.
As human beings, we have felt this way for millenniums. I am reminded of Paul’s letters throughout the New Testament, which always send greetings to his friends spread across many miles and communities. As he traveled from place to place on his missions he met, lived with, and worked with many people and inevitably had many whom he loved and he missed.
Each of my friends has journeyed with me or shaped me in a particular way. So as we approach February 14th, which in Mexico is the day of love and friendship, I am thankful for my friends spread across the globe, whom I both love and miss. And I am thankful for the new friends that I encounter at every turn.