Saturday, 4 July 2009

Beads, remembering, friendship and hugs

On Friday evening a group of friends were invited to a special time of farewell for a colleague who is going "back home". This happens alot in Geneva, people stay, build friendships and then move on. The international population is very transient. Goodbyes are not often as powerful as this and it's easy with a constantly moving population to get a bit nonchalant about parting.
On Friday as we gathered we had prepared beads and strings. We each added a bead and a memory to a red string for our friend and we listened to her and to one another. We told stories, old fairy tales, tales about one another, we cried a bit and laughed and sometimes sang and remembered good times and difficult times. We each also created a thread of beads for our friend to take home.
One of us told about how in her culture beads are often used as a way of saying things without words. A woman might leave a string of black beads on the pillow as a way of saying to her husband "we need to talk".
We talked about life and families, work and friendship, values and how painful it is to hide who we are for the sake of our work. That group of people will never gather in quite that same way ever again. It was a time of authenticity, a time of farewell. I got a sense it helped all of us to reflect on our lives and on our work, but it also helped us to pick up the thread of our lives and to move backwards and forwards into the future. Saying good bye is not easy at all. Watching others leave when you remain is also hard. For leavers and remainers the beading helped to find more understanding of how all of us are moving on even as we stay put. We hope our strings of beads will say something beyond words about the love and friendship we have shared.