So many ways to say good-bye…many actually mean “until we meet again” and several double as both hello and good-bye. Some people refuse to speak the word, some say “parting is such sweet sorrow,” some cry, some have parties, some promise to keep in touch but never do…
Recently, one of my mom’s closest friends had to move because of her husband’s health. This was not a move she wanted, nor ever dreamed of making. She did not want to leave this place where she had roots, purpose and support. She said she felt like she was “going on the worst mission trip ever.”
When I called my grandma yesterday, I learned that she’d been to 5 funerals of dear friends that week. Friends she’d raised her kids alongside and had been each other’s pillars of support during hard times and widowhood. She is, rather quickly, becoming “the last one.”
Friends moving and friends dying…they seem like very different things, but are they?
The Bible tells us that for believers there really is no difference…we will see each again.
Still, I’m left wondering:
“How do you celebrate a friendship that has spanned decades and generations and is coming to an end?”
“How do you say goodbye to someone who has meant so much to you, whose life is intertwined with yours, without regret or leaving your heart with a gaping hole?”
“How do you celebrate the time you had and not get sucked down the rabbit hole of despair and loneliness?”
For my mom and her friends, after they cried and asked questions about the move, they organized a party. They gathered together one more time to share stories and treats. They laughed and cried and rejoiced. They prayed and looked forward with hope.
They reminded her that her life in the Northwoods mattered now and for eternity, that she wouldn’t be forgotten or abandoned, that she’d made an impact and that their love and prayers would go with her. They asked to see pictures of her new home and what her plans were—they got excited about the next part of her journey with her.
For my grandma, she works hard to call, send cards and visit people who are doing poorly. She is writing her own history down and focusing on “the next generation.” She is strong and outgoing, but she’s lonely and sad as well.
She’ll never ask for it, but as her support and friend-base dwindles, she needs us to pour into her more than ever. I don’t think we realize what our phone calls and cards mean to her, nor how those photographs of her great grandchildren can lift her spirits. She needs to know she is loved and that her life continues to matter.
When we say “see ya later” to our family and friends and head off home or to work or to get groceries, we expect, without question, to see them again. There is time for that question or story another day. We’ll figure out that argument and make up with each other later. We’ll get together and go on that adventure someday.
Until…there’s a police officer at our door or we hear about a car crash or sudden illness on Facebook…and there is no later. These are tragedies we all feel sad about, but never think will happen to us or to our friends and family…until they do.
In seeking to find a good way to say good-bye, I find I’m ultimately asking how to love others well.
How do I love them now, before they move across the country or the threshold of eternity?
How do I show them how important they are to me? What might that do for them—to find out that their life matters more than they knew?
How about you?
How will you live so that you’ll have no regrets when it’s time to say “good-bye”?
Featured image created by Word Art.