This is dedicated to every milspouse who has found her person amidst this crazy, wonderful military lifestyle. May your connection last no matter how great the time or distance. This piece is especially dedicated to my dear friend Kelsey who moved away today.

Jackie and Kelsey enjoying a fun night out near base.

They say it’s hardest to be the one left behind, and I have to agree.

Milspouse friendships are uniquely bittersweet. Although you’re thrilled when you find that special someone that you click with at your duty station, there’s always an awareness in the back of your mind that the clock is ticking. You’re both only stationed together for a set amount of time and eventually, one of you will move away. This sense of borrowed time is beneficial in that you waste no opportunity to spend days together, explore the area together, and make memories while you are both in one place. Military relationships are often cultivated quickly and run deep, which is why parting ways is all the more difficult.

This isn’t my first time losing a close friend, but it doesn’t make it any easier.

For the past couple of weeks, my next-door neighbor and milspouse bestie prepped for her PCS. I babysat her children while she purged and cleaned, and lent her odds and ends like our ladder, our frying pan and our vacuum. I provided a listening ear when she needed to vent about moving-related stress, and in exchange, she filled my fridge up with perishables and condiments that she no longer needed and could not take with her.

Throughout the week she individually said goodbye to friends, saving me for last. In our remaining hours last night, we spent time together in her empty, echoing house, reminiscing about the highs and lows that we collectively shared over the past three years. It was clear that neither of us wanted to get too emotional, so when it came time for our final parting, we hugged and spoke a heartfelt, “See you later.”

Leading up to this moment, denial was convenient because of the distractions associated with moving.

I experienced a whirlwind of helping out and staying busy every day, but today was different — today was her moving day. While she had her final housing inspection, I was at an appointment. When I pulled up to our street, I foolishly hoped to see her car parked in the driveway. No such luck — it was gone and it wouldn’t return. It was no longer her driveway. It was no longer her house. 

Keys were turned in and the deed was done.

I sadly walked inside and noticed that my vacuum had been returned and was waiting by my back door. For some reason, this minute symbol cemented reality — it was official. She was no longer my neighbor and I was left to live in the shadow of the memories we once shared.

In the coming days, I anticipate several small reminders that she is no longer here. I won’t bump into her, we can’t babysit each other’s kids, we can’t lend a missing ingredient that will save dinner, we can’t meet for coffee or evening walks, and our children won’t be playing together outside.

Every time I don’t see her, it will truly sink in that what is has transitioned into what was.

Losing a friend through a PCS move initiates the grieving process. Although we’ll keep in touch, gone are the days of spontaneous hangouts and the joy of being together in person. Although I have other friends on post, I’ll admit — there really is no replacing her.

I plan to pull in for a while, allow myself to experience these feelings and then enjoy what I can while I can. Before I know it, I’ll be the one leaving and starting fresh with new friendships and adventures — it is all just temporary.

I feel immensely fortunate to have experienced such a connected friendship, and I will always be grateful that our spouses’ orders overlapped for a moment in time. Thank you for the memories my dear, beautiful friend. I’ll see you later.

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A self-described “Jackie of All Trades,” Army wife Jackie Toops enjoys exploring the various facets of her personality by chronicling military life, world travels, family, her love of the arts and more. Her academic background is in the fields of Interdisciplinary Humanities, Museum Studies and Nonprofit Management, and she has overseen public relations for museums, galleries and universities. Jackie’s articles have been featured on Army Wife 101, Wall Street International Magazine, SoFluential, HomeAway, Military Biz Connection and FamiliesGo. While stationed in Germany, she regularly discussed her articles on-air with the Armed Forces Network in Wiesbaden. A mother of two, Jackie enjoys coffee, freelance writing, languages and discovering new ways to express herself. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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