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Saying goodbye: After the tears, there is a silver lining for those leaving last for college

This week, while everyone was monitoring health care controversy and/or airing their feelings about Brett Favre, the first batch of freshmen moved off and into their new collegiate lives.

Rachel left first, driving to Mankato on Tuesday to check in early with the rest of the Bethany speech team.

On Wednesday, the MSUM boys spent 45 minutes repeatedly asking their parents, "Are we there yeeeet?" as they drove to move-in day at the dorms.

Yesterday the NDSUers took it one step further (literally) and moved across state lines.

Somewhere amidst all this (pardon my failure to keep track of dates, times, locations, shopping lists and my cat), Kelsey moved to the Mayville campus, Missy left for Bemidji State, and Jake returned to Moorhead for Monday morning's classes.

That leaves those of us who don't move for another week with a very strange sensation to stomach.

The comparison is probably disproportionate, but I keep thinking of those Left Behind movies where everyone wakes up to find a good percentage of the population suddenly gone. (Okay, it's extremely disproportionate, but those crazy kids are my world.)

I spent Monday night with 'the girls,' all of us in need of one last chance to gossip, laugh, tease and talk over one another.

As good as it felt to just hang out after spending most of our summers working or pre-college prepping, there was a tangible aura amidst the chatter and random outbursts of song that reminded us it was the last time we were all going to be together for a looong time. Rachel was set to leave in a few hours, and none of us were ready to say goodbyes.

So we put it off for as long as possible. After we'd sent the guys home for the evening, the five of us gals got into my Subaru, unwillingly setting off to take Rachel home.

From the backseat, I heard a small, slightly choked voice ask, "Can we take one more trip around the lake?"

All readily agreeing, we revved into the night, chatting about everything and anything, sometimes giving in to silences that weren't awkward so much as filled with hard-to-take realization.

After two laps around the lake, we drove to Rachel's, listening to a Regina Spektor song composed completely of "hey, remember that time...?" phrases.

When we got out of the car, still hesitant to give any farewells, we launched into several hours' worth of our own, "hey, remember that time...?" memories, which made us chuckle, chortle, cringe, scold, grin and tear up just a little.

At one point, Rachel looked around at us and said, "This is perfect." We all agreed, nodding to ourselves, tearing up a tiny bit more, and realizing that we were surrounded by our best friends who -- for the first time in our lives -- weren't going to be there anymore.

We cried. Until we couldn't anymore. And then someone said something clichéd but heart-wrenchingly honest and we all began to sob again.

There's a point where you realize exactly how much you're going to miss someone, or a group of someones, or being surrounded by someones that you can tell anything to and not be judged harshly or loved less.

Sitting on the ground in Rachel's driveway at four in the morning, we realized exactly how much that was.

Of course, I've been focusing on the sad side of the situation. It's not all bad. For example, now that they're gone, I can write about their most embarrassing moments for next week's newspaper.

Thank God for silver linings.

Thressa Johnson graduated from Detroit Lakes High School and is leaving for Concordia College in Moorhead next week.