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I’m no stranger to feeling the sting of living cross country from my parents and sisters. But these past weeks? It’s been different.

Usually, when I see pictures of my dad holding my nephew at a casual Sunday afternoon lunch because they live just 20 minutes away from my sister and her family, I wish my girls could be in that picture with their cousin. Or when my mom texts me that she and my older sister are going on their monthly trip to Disneyland, I wish I could be in that 2-hour car ride up and back just to chat about life and get advice from the two women I look up to most. When I see my little sister tagged on Facebook in a picture of her preaching on stage to her church, I wish I could be in the congregation to cheer her on and see how much she’s grown from our days of sleeping in bunk beds. 

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I feel a sting of longing in these moments, a longing to be doing everyday life with these people I love.

But then I remind myself that really they are all just a plane ride away, two or three hours. Nothing, really. And I remember my parents have a trip booked to come see us in a few weeks because they are so good at visiting every couple of months. And then I realize our trip to San Diego to congregate with everyone is only a few months after that because we try to all gather a couple times a year.

I remember these things and the sting softens a bit. It becomes just a dull ache, like an old bruise, that is sort of always there but mainly just hurts when it’s pushed on. So I go about my life and try to FaceTime when I can.

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My husband and I have lived across the country from my family going on six years, so I’m no stranger to the sting.

But this? This surreal, necessary, world-wide staying at home for who knows how long because of a literal pandemic business that’s happening right now?

This is different.

This is a clamp around my heart that causes me to watch hour-long Facebook live chats by James Taylor because his songs remind me of my dad.

It’s a sort of suffocating uncertainty that elicits me sending more Marco Polo videos to my mom in two weeks than I’ve ever sent in my life.

It’s a trapped feeling that prompts random FaceTime chats with my sister just so our babies can stare at each other in blissful ignorance of what’s going on around them.

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It’s an undefined indefinite-ness that pushes me to stream my sister’s live devotional intended for her church hundreds of miles away.

This is different. There are no trips scheduled. There are no gatherings planned.  There are no flights booked. There is nothing.

Nothing but the uncertainty of when I’ll get to see my family again.

Uncertainty of if we will all stay healthy until whenever that time comes. Uncertainty of a lot of things.

But . . .

In the midst of all this uncertainty and extended physical separation from these people I love dearly, I’m able to take a look at my actions over the past weeks and realize it isn’t the absence of togetherness that’s driving me to seek out the virtual company of my peopleit’s the presence of love. 

Love so deep a pandemic does not diminish, but rather activates the power it holds, like it’s been forged stronger and stronger over the years for such a time as this. 

Kiley Hillner

Kiley Hillner lives in Texas with her husband, two beautifully lively daughters, and sweetest baby boy. She works full time and has her MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. She is loving life and embracing the chaotic beauty of motherhood. You can find more of her thoughts on this parenting gig on her blog and on Facebook.

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