Keeping Loving Connections Despite Distance

Living hundreds of miles away from all my close family makes the holidays and other special occasions especially lonely. When I said yes to a job that meant being much less present in the lives of my two young nieces, I knew I had to find a way to stay connected with them. Going from monthly visits to yearly meant I was going to miss out on a lot more of their lives. Plus, it meant fewer hugs and good-night kisses.

Before I moved away, I had my nieces each pick out a wooden “treasure box.” One afternoon, we painted and decorated them together. On each, I wrote, “Aunt Sarah loves you.” These boxes have become home for the memories and celebrations that I miss. When the youngest one lost a tooth, I took a sharpie and a mosaic tile, drew a tooth outline, and dated the back. When the oldest advanced in swim class, she got a tile with waves. First and last days of school. Birthdays. New Year’s. All recognized by their own tile.

When I start to feel disconnected from family, when family pictures at the holidays show up on Facebook, or I find out I missed a school assembly, drawing a simple design on a glass tile lets me be present in spirit, and lets my family know that I was thinking about them. I am also always on the lookout for little trinkets I can send them for their boxes, representations of things they love, and my love for them.

About a year and a half after I moved, I got a birthday present from my nieces. A wooden box they had decorated for me. Now I have a place to store the drawings and cards they make me. A memory box of my own that I can open up when the distance gets to be a little too much. Tiles and trinkets and children’s drawings don’t replace hugs and good-night kisses, but they share love and sustain connections when otherwise it is easy to grow distant.

Rev. Sarah Kingsbery serves as the associate minister at First Christian Church in Jefferson City, Missouri. Born and raised in North Carolina, she is still getting used to living in the Midwest, even after two years here. Sarah lives with depression and anxiety and gives thanks every day for medication, therapy, and supportive colleagues.