Departing friend just a text message away

I’ve never really experienced the torrent of emotions that comes when a friend moves away. Growing up, my class of 12 pretty much stayed the same, with some people moving in and out over the years. But my close friends never left.

So I was never that girl standing on the corner with tears streaming down her face watching a friend wave from the back seat of a car as it drove away.

I never had to share that last handwritten and folded-up note with a junior high friend who had to move when dad got a better job or mom wanted to move closer to family.

When I left for college, I was ready for the adventure; by the time I graduated, the transition was the same. I knew I would still have access to my friends through emails, phone calls and social networking sites.

All that logical thought went out the window when my dear friend and co-worker Deann Stumpe announced a couple weeks ago that she would be leaving the Tribune and Hastings for bigger and better things in the state’s capital.

I was fully aware when she applied for a job in Lincoln and even gave her a glowing recommendation when her future employer called me late one afternoon. I just never anticipated in my wildest dreams that she’d get the job and leave.

With tears in my eyes, I thought of all the things we had been through in 6 1/2 years together at the Tribune.

There were illnesses and medical scares, the joys and struggles of pregnancy and child rearing, and that doesn’t even include the roller coaster that is my own life.

On the day my dad died last fall, Deann took time off work to visit with me at the hospital in Grand Island. She made sure I got something to eat and helped me to deal with what was coming.

I can’t even begin to count the times throughout the years she and I have supported each other, through good times and bad.

We experienced the joys of friendship through numerous “Grey’s Anatomy” watching parties, complete with a bottle of wine, and the annual viewing of our favorite sappy Hallmark Channel Christmas movie, “Call Me Mrs. Miracle.”

All of this and more washed over me when Deann whispered the news in my ear that morning. She was taking the job and had just turned in her two-week notice.

I’ll be honest; you could have knocked me over with the breeze used to blow out a candle. And my stomach was in knots for the rest of the day.

Once the floodgates of tears opened up, there was no stopping them. I remember thinking how silly it was to cry. I should be happy for Deann, who was getting a great new job opportunity in a bigger community.

I knew that I needed to congratulate her wholeheartedly and have her know I was there for her and supported her in this decision.

Yet I couldn’t stop crying as I thought about those moments of venting to her during a pop break or having someone to talk to about the latest “Grey’s” episode.

Last Friday night, I got a text message from Deann asking if I was awake. Soon we were on the phone and I was reassuring her that she had made the right decision; this was good for her future.

We laughed about the unexpected change in plans; it was something I knew I had to do to reassure my friend, even though inside I was begging her to stay.

Today is the second day in the office without her around, and I still haven’t really let it soak in. It’s like she’s on vacation or home with a sick little girl.

I know I’ll be reeling from the change for a while. It will take me some time to find my path without my friend walking beside me every day.

I’ve realized, though, that I never said goodbye. And I’m not planning on saying it. I know she is always a phone call, text message, email or Facebook message away.

Shay Burk

Veteran Tribune reporter Shay Burk writes whatever is swirling around her mind each week. Read her columns on Tuesdays for her humorous thoughts on everyday life.

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