It would appear that I left Lawrence, Kansas seventeen years ago.

It would appear that way because my dad drove a U-Haul full of my worldly possessions back to Denver, I quit my job teaching math to bouncy junior highers, and technically I didn’t have a mailing address in Lawrence any longer.

It would appear that way on the outside, but that’s not exactly how my heart saw it.

The plan was for my treasures to be stored for two years in my sister’s basement while I was in China and then return home to normal life.

I loved living in Lawrence. It was where I have gone to school, become an adult, learned more of who I was and met many dear people. I thought that after two years in China I would be back in my beloved Lawrence. And while I was gone, Marla would hold my place.

Marla and I had shared an apartment off of Mississippi Street near the football stadium at the base of  the KU campus. We were single, young, and employed (so we each had some discretionary money). I was in recovery from living two years as the only live-in staff at a group home for unwed pregnant teens. An important and wonderful job; but it cost me my compassion and I needed to recover or risk losing core parts of myself.

Those two years were magical and carefree. Anyone in need of recovery should have a Marla in their life. She embodies the kind of fun that doesn’t come along often. For two years we took Lawrence by storm and embraced life to the FULL.

Leaving was softened by the reality that as long as Marla was there, a piece of me would be there too.

Clearly two years have passed and, not surprisingly, life has gone on for Marla as well. She met a great guy, became a home owner, started her family and most recently became Dr. Marla.

“Amy, I’ve taken a job as the head registrar at North Kentucky University,” Marla excitedly told me.

“But then that means I’m really leaving Lawrence,” I replied, not trying very hard to hide my own personal sadness.

“But you’ve been gone a long time.” She rightly pointed out. When I recounted this conversation to my sister she also pointed out that I have many others I know in Lawrence.

Both are true statements.

But it turns out that Marla was my placeholder. What do you do when your place holder isn’t there any longer? And your place is no longer held?

I cried. I’ve been sad all over again even though years have passed and my grieving doesn’t make sense to others in light of my so-called obvious reality. As oddly as it sounds all these years later, it turns out I’m leaving Lawrence.

Another U-Haul has been packed and a piece of me moved last week to Kentucky. Marla, I truly wish you the best. Lawrence’s loss is Kentucky’s win (as a Jayhawk fan, you know how I hate that sentence! But I love you and since part of me is now there, I’ll get over it!). Even though I didn’t know how much you were holding my place until you told me you were leaving, thanks for holding it for so many years. It’s your time to go, blessings on your new adventure!  Love, Amy

Leave A Comment

  1. conniemomgibson July 16, 2012 at 8:09 pm - Reply

    What a precious story and friend Amy. I DO understand your hurt and loss. I’m sure many of us do. But thanks for the sacrifices you have made to do what you do. YOU, my friend, are greatly loved!!!

    • Amy July 16, 2012 at 8:13 pm - Reply

      Oh Connie, thank you. Funny how the losses (and blessings!!) never quite end, eh?

  2. David @ Red Letter Believers July 16, 2012 at 9:34 pm - Reply

    It’s tough to leave, even when you know you are doing the right thing.
    Amy, love your writing!

    • Amy July 16, 2012 at 10:41 pm - Reply

      David — funny how tough it can be … even when it IS the right thing :). Sigh!

  3. Betsy July 16, 2012 at 9:44 pm - Reply

    Dear Amy, I understand totally! I’ve spent 20 years of my adult life living overseas, and I remember how I felt when my father moved from Texas, where we’d grown up, to upper New York State.

    This is a beautiful post.

    • Amy July 16, 2012 at 10:40 pm - Reply

      Thanks Betsy — things are called “part of the human experience” for a reason, eh?! We can all relate!

  4. Melinda Oberhelman July 16, 2012 at 11:00 pm - Reply

    As difficult as life was at Hannah’s House (especially with you being “the only live staff” [smile]) you brought so much to the lives of the young women whose lives you touched and to the rest of us.I have so many fond memories of our times together. I am glad that you had a place to go after Hannah’s House for healing and recovery. I am thankful for the time that we had together. Thank you for being the a Light in the lives of so many.

    • Amy July 17, 2012 at 12:58 am - Reply

      Oh Melinda, me too! Many, many happy memories! I wouldn’t change my time there with all of you for anything. I was just at a place were I was starting not to like me and my reactions to things. You, Heather and the gals … I’m forever changed because of you all!!

    • Amy July 17, 2012 at 2:54 am - Reply

      Meant “live-in” oops :) … been corrected now!

  5. Cynth July 16, 2012 at 11:06 pm - Reply

    I remember when my parents were talking about moving to the UK-both Greg & Mike lived there then. My initial reaction was sadness and worry because the thought of my folks “leaving home,” was a bit too much to process.

    How is Marla’s family? I still remember her wonderful hospitality all those years ago when I took a road trip to visit you in 1997.

  6. Loren Pinilis July 17, 2012 at 12:04 am - Reply

    What a poignant post, Amy! It’s amazing how our hearts are often miles away from our bodies, heh. And this is also a powerful testament to relationships!

  7. Janis McArthur July 17, 2012 at 1:19 am - Reply

    Thanks Amy for sharing. I understand as I’ve been going through my own grief of leaving Hefei, China and saying good-bye to many friends there. I will especially will miss my friend Jo knowing that she’s leaving to move to Guangzhou. Even though I was Hefei for just two years, what a blessed time that was.

    • Amy July 17, 2012 at 2:51 am - Reply

      Janis, thanks for sharing “from the front line” so-to-speak!

  8. Sarah Morrison July 17, 2012 at 5:14 am - Reply

    that’s exactly how I felt when my mom told me she would be moving to another state, a couple weeks before I left for my third year in China. It was like home was torn up, even though i wasn’t there. I totally understand your tears. hugs

    • Amy July 17, 2012 at 8:34 pm - Reply

      hugs back, dear Sarah, hugs back!

  9. exegete77 July 17, 2012 at 11:39 pm - Reply

    My wife and I have moved 28 times all over the U.S. in 41 years of marriage. You’d think we be used to it. Yet this last move from KCMO (yeah, Jayhawk country!) to the mountains of Southern California was the hardest emotionally. It doesn’t get easier.

    Your words are right on target. My own “placeholders” have long since moved or died. My best friend from high school died 35 years ago (10 years after graduation). My father died 21 years ago. My mother still lives, but in far different circumstances, and so isn’t really a placeholder in the sense of many others. Only my younger brother lives in the area. Perhaps the biggest shock was when my father retired in 1982 and they sold the only house they (and we) had ever known. And then when they widened the rural road in 1999, the house, barn, pastures and the hillside were all demolished. I drove by there in June this year, and I still don’t recognize the area.

    I wouldn’t trade any of our moves and wonderful people we have met, but there is a sadness of knowing what had been, the placeholders we remember.

    Wish you God’s blessings in this process of losing a placeholder.


    • Amy July 18, 2012 at 3:40 am - Reply

      I wouldn’t trade the experiences I’ve had either … but yes, yes, yes to the sadness too. Love it that we are complex enough to hold many feelings and truths at once. Rich, thanks for sharing a bit of your journey! Amy

  10. What a lovely bittersweet post. As someone who has moved a lot and lived overseas as well, I had never really thought about “placeholders” in exactly this way, but reading your words made me realize my own placeholders and how some of them are still holding and others have changed. So poignant!

    I felt really sad reading this post on your behalf, and also totally “got” it.

    Here’s to having a placeholder in the place that really counts, eh? ;-)

    Much love & a big hug,

    • Amy July 18, 2012 at 3:39 am - Reply

      Oh yes, for placeholders the world over :)!! Hugs back! Amy

  11. sandy July 18, 2012 at 3:02 am - Reply

    Placeholders. I had 4 in Pasadena when I moved to Vietnam, and all 4 were gone by the time I returned. I felt lost. Unanchored. Displaced. Thank you for putting words to the sense of place that people give us–and the security we have in knowing that in that town there is a house with a closet and I can have a pair of shoes there.

  12. Marilyn August 21, 2012 at 8:57 pm - Reply

    I totally get this. And will pass it on as so many of my MK or ATCK friends get this as well. My placeholders have always been my brother and sister-in-law….and they just moved from Massachusetts to Oxford, England with a final destination of Turkey. I have felt so sad….it’s always us that leave. We’re the ones who need the placeholders, and they are now gone so I feel uprooted without packing a bag. Thanks so much for this post even though I’m late on it.

    • Avatar photo
      Amy August 21, 2012 at 9:10 pm - Reply

      Marilyn!!! So glad that you stopped by and I KNOW that you get it. On a different note, I’ve been having such trouble commenting on other WP blogs (am working with WP on this) and have wanted to comment on your blog.

  13. […] hadn’t realized how much my sense of home was tied to locations until I wrote about leaving Lawrence, Kansas and how sad I was. A friend commented that he’d moved so much during his life that “home” […]

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