Going Away

“You can never discover new oceans, unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.” -Anonymous, Senior quote for Britt Lutgen.

When I chose those words to be typed next to my picture in the yearbook back in 1998, I had no idea how much they would shape my life over the next decade and a half.

I also had no idea what kind of courage it took to sail away from the shore.

At 18, that quote had nothing to do with leaving and everything to do with going somewhere new. New York City, I imagined. And the only thing I had to lose sight of was the small Iowa town that could never be enough for wild-spirited girls with more dreams than sense.

It would take almost ten years for me to actually leave.

I had a little better idea by then of how hard it was to leave the shore. I appreciated that small Iowa town and the people who made it home for me and my kids. I cried when we pulled away in the U-Haul loaded up with everything we owned. But all of my courage, I thought, was saved up for building a brand new life in a brand new place.

Almost four years later, and we’re packing up to leave that life, and it is sailing away from this shore that has finally made me realize what the anonymous philosopher was talking about when he said it would take courage.

It’s not the venturing out to see new oceans that requires bravery.

It’s the willingness to break your own heart.

going away party group pictureOur friends threw us a going away party this weekend, and it was humbling to see how much love had been given to us. In less than four years we have, all of us, made friendships that feel like family.

We have made friendships that hurt to leave.

We’ve celebrated pregnancies and waited for notice that babies had arrived safely. We’ve fallen in love with other people’s children and mourned the loss of baby faces.

This child did not exist four years ago and I had no idea who his mother was, and now it kills me to think that he may forget my face or never say my name.

This is Courtney. Courtney and I didn’t know each other’s names four years ago and it is only by chance that we met after our husbands befriended each other at work.

Last week Courtney spent hours planning, baking, making decorations, and putting together a scrapbook for us – all while sick, working full-time, and going to school. Her parents have played surrogate grandparents to my own kids. Her daughter had her first sleepover at my house. I haven’t even figured out yet how to tell her how much she and her family have meant to me and mine, and already I have to learn how to tell her goodbye.

And there are more, so many more goodbyes to be said and friendships to pack up and drive away from.

This is the part that takes courage.

It’s not planning the adventure or the idea of sleeping in a tiny RV. It’s not plotting points on a map and deciding how long you’ll stay in each city. The oceans are the fun part, the easy part that takes just a little more dreams than sense.

It’s the letting go that hurts.

Jared and the kids are going back to a small Iowa town today. Jared’s grandpa died and the funeral is on Friday. In the midst of all the packing and planning and preparing to go on the road, we started getting calls from home that another end was coming quickly.

I keep thinking that Walt had the easy part, the job of going on. But Jared, his mom, and everyone else in the family, they have the hard part now. They’re the ones that have to let go.

“You can never discover new oceans, unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.”

Now I get it.

(group photo by Angie)

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  1. Nanna says:

    Love you, baby. And I love the people that love you. And those that you love. Sigh.

  2. Hi Britt
    I love this post, very touching. So much emotion and love in your words. I simply adore your quote. I have lost sight of the shore in the past and it can be very difficult at times.
    Good on you for having the courage! I can’t wait to hear all about your adventures.

  3. Selma says:

    Wishing you the softest of winds and the fairest of weather on your journey. This is one of life’s moments we talk about in our old age with blankets on our knees and brandy in our cocoa. I am excited for you. And delighted. And all the other things that matter. But really, what actually matters is you and your family and taking this journey together. I am so glad you are in a place where you can do it. It feels kind of epic. That’s why I say : ‘God speed’ – it seems appropriate somehow.

    The poet, Robert Browning however, said it better than I ever could – ‘Once more on my adventure brave and new.’
    Enjoy your brave, new adventure XXX

  4. Vikki says:

    Beautiful words, pictures, sentiment – all of it.

  5. Kristina says:

    So sorry for your loss….your family will be in my thoughts…

    • Miss Britt says:

      Thank you. Our family is really, really lucky to have a strong family base to lean on during these kinds of things, and a pretty solid faith about what comes next that makes dealing with death a lot easier. :-)

  6. When I moved to Norway I left my parents, my brother, my friends, my colleagues and my baseball team.

    It was aweful, but it was a decision I had made because it needed to be made.

    Sometimes you just have to go to the next shore, the next ocean, climb the next hill, sometimes you do and sometimes you don’t.

  7. I have moved too many times to count in my life – saying goodby is definitely the hardest part. Some relationships will survive the distance others will inevitably fade, accepting that was such a hard lesson. I miss so many of the people who touched my life at one point or another- but regardless of their continued involvement in my life today, every one of those people helped shape me into the person i am today.

    • Miss Britt says:

      “every one of those people helped shape me into the person i am today.”

      Absolutely. A girlfriend of mine that started as a co-worker hugged me goodbye the other day, and when she did she said, “you changed my life, Britt.” It still gives me goosebumps to think about, but she’s so right.

      We absolutely do change each other’s lives.

  8. that is one hell of an amazing group you have there. always wonderful to have such love and friendship.

    of course courtney is a gorgeous woman, but i really love that photo you captured. i swear i can see her fabulous heart and kindness!

    i hate hearing of the passing of anyone’s grandpa. grandparents are such a special part of childhood. so much love to jared and all who loved walt.

  9. Hockeymandad says:

    I don’t remember signing the waiver for that picture to be released! LOL. You and your family will be missed by mine “in person” far more than words could express.

    • Miss Britt says:

      You were in public and therefore had no reasonable right to privacy. SUCKAH!

      I super, super hope that next winter when we are back in the Southeast again, you and all your girls will come up to where we are for a mini-vacation. It is SO awesome watch our little girls play together. Those are some of my favorite pictures from the party. And MAN I wish I would have gotten those hugs on camera.

  10. muskrat says:

    Awesome! Looks like fun.
    My neighbors have mentioned having a big party right before we move, when we know the sale is going to go through and stuff, but I’m afraid to jinx it! Maybe after closing, when everything’s in boxes, we can have one last party at our crib, like I used to do all the time pre-babies.
    Hope the trip to Iowa is enjoyable, even if the reason for the trip ain’t.

    • Miss Britt says:

      You know we didn’t have a going away party at all before we moved out of Iowa? WTF?!?!

      Clearly Southern neighbors and friends are better at the send offs!

  11. Megan says:

    Please send my condolences to Jared and his family. Grandparents are so precious and it’s so hard to lose them.

    I love your little family! I wish I’d gotten the chance to meet Angie and her family and the other family there I don’t know. Your photos of Y and Courtney are gorgeous (partly because of you, partly because they just ARE gorgeous!). I’m so glad you were able, so far from “home,” to find people that you hate to leave behind. God created the Internet so that you don’t really have to leave them completely. But not being able to just pop over to their homes, give them a hug, cry on their shoulder or laugh like crazy over margaritas? That’s tough.

    The good news is that even if you can’t see it, the shore is still there. xo

  12. Lisa says:

    Please give Jared my condolences. My Grandpa was my favorite person ever and losing him was difficult. Much love to him and his family.

    Goodbyes are so bittersweet when you’re taking off on an adventure. What a great group of friends you have! I can see how much they love you and your family, and even if you can’t take them on your adventure, you will be carrying that love with you.

  13. Liza says:

    so sorry for your family’s loss britt. good thoughts and prayers your way.

  14. I am so sorry for your loss Britt.I will keep you in my prayers.God is good.

  15. naomi says:

    I didn’t read any of the other comments, but this post completely and 100% made me cry. We are doing our annual “May Goodbyes” and this resonated with me …

    My husband reminded me that as our 2nd grader is mourning the loss of his best friend in 2 weeks … that we forced this issue on OUR friends from back home when we moved to India.

    The only thing I can say to you is to cry hard, love them while you can, don’t wear mascara, and know that along your next journey? you will meet MORE people that will change YOUR life … and vice versa …

    it’s worth all of the pain and sadness in saying goodbye. (i promise, even though I don’t believe it all of the time myself)

  16. Courtney says:

    This post is lovely. My husband and I and our 2 young daughters are in the midst of preparing for a huge move from New England to the Philippines for at least 2 years. This is an adventure that we looked for, grabbed onto and are excited about – but as the goodbyes get closer, leaving the shore is hard – the people, places and communities will be carried in our hearts as well. But it is a challenge to let those hearts break. Thanks for sharing.

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