On my first day as a middle school teacher, new to Northern Virginia and to teaching, nervous and tentative about establishing my authority, making a positive impression on my students, my outfit, and pretty much everything, I joined a group of teachers I was beginning to know for lunch.
One of them, an outgoing young woman I'd been introduced to as Liz, mentioned in passing that she had gone to Bucknell University. Trying to make conversation, I told her that my brother was currently a student there. She asked what his name was, and I told her, knowing that he had to be at least three years younger than her, knowing there was no way that she would know him. Her response: "I have a picture of him in my classroom!"
It was then that I learned my first lesson about Miss Liz Woo. She knows everyone. With Kevin Bacon, there are six degrees of seperation; with Liz Woo, there are maybe two.
As it turns out, she did know my brother Joel as they had participated in the same campus ministry, and the picture in her classroom was not as creepy as it originally sounded. It was a group shot of a bunch of friends together.
And so began my friendship with Liz, a friendship that will turn ten years old this fall, a friendship that is deep and tested and rich. We have taught the same students with classrooms a few doors apart, worked on the same teaching team, participated in the same small group, and carpooled to work together. We've walked with each other through years of unintentional singleness, through relational conflict, through the deaths of both of Liz's parents, through infertility, and through other trials and pains, big and small. Liz has taught me how to cook Korean food and acquainted me with insider DCisms such as the dueling Christmas light displays in Annandale and bubble tea, to name just a few. I introduced Liz to her husband, a friend of mine from college. She and Colin got married a little over a year before CJ and I. We had our first children, daughters, less than three months apart.
To me, knowing Liz and living in DC are one and the same. I do not know one without the other. That's why I can't make the thought of Liz, Colin, and their adorable daughter moving away this summer stick, no matter how many times she tells me that it really will be so. I cannot imagine living here without Liz.
Or perhaps it is not true that I cannot imagine it; it's rather that I don't want to. I don't want to imagine the many dinner parties and gatherings with friends that won't happen because Liz will not be there to plan them. I don't want to imagine months going by without the taste of Liz's amazing cooking. I don't want to imagine not being able to meet at Connally's for lunch or for a walk in Old Town. I don't want to imagine our daughters not growing up together. I don't want to imagine our lives being lived in different places.
I will miss you friend. You love faithfully and generously. You make strangers friends. You are still walking with God when it would have been so easy to let go. Your friendship has been a sweet, sweet gift, and I count it one of the greatest treasures of my thirty years.