As long as I can remember I have had great disdain for goodbyes. I have snuck out of meetings, parties, church services, and relationships because of it. Call it selfish, cowardly, or many other unflattering names, I still can't seem to embrace the art of goodbye. It has always felt like an akward dance that I should just sit out of. It is the one area in life that holds some regret. So maybe I fling wide the doors to the heart a little faster than most. And that same reflex that swings wide, can run when it is time for the G word. I firmly believe that when lives intersect it changes us. Even if the walk beside a person is a quick one, we cannot stay the same. I recognize the significance of relationships, I just need to work on the transitions. And so here I have before me the biggest goodbyes I have had to say. And I hope to walk it out a little differently. One can't really sneak out of the country with a husband and three loud boys.
I have had chances to not run away from goodbyes lately. Ones that I know God graciously brought us. Three friends moved as we were trying to leave. And sweet Shirley left us soon after. I was a bawling mess as I pulled into the parking lot of the funeral home. The parking attendant asked me twice if I was family which only made me gulp cry louder and squeak out a "no, I am just a friend". He finally handed me his own handkerchief and waved me forward. I almost didn't go. I had spoken my heart to her face to face, I didn't really need to go, I reasoned. I almost missed one of the most beautiful goodbyes I have esperienced. And it did matter. It helped me process a little more why saying goodbye is a gift. It is often wrapped in loss and grieving. But it is still a gift. I grieve what I can hold but not keep. What I get to enjoy but not control. The most life giving relationships are so clearly not about me.
Two weekends ago I met up with college friends. Sisters of the heart, who stood with me on my wedding day and held each of my boys as newborns. They saw me before Jeff, before teaching, and definitely before life hit like a hurricane. And I cringed and hid all weepy as they shared beautiful words. As much as it made me ache, I needed to hear them. And I needed to tell them what they have meant to me. Because that doesn't always happen over coffee or in a quick catch up call. We are not leaving forever. I know the goodbyes are temporary. This one is just a little longer than what I am use too.
I am reading a book, Third Culture Kids, to help the boys get through this season a little more graciously. I was surprised when I read that transition time has already begun. And that this part of the transition is one of the more important ones. My mouth stretched into a line and then frown as I read the healthiest ways to deals with endings. Head on, full hearted, and embracing loss as part of the process. That there indeed is an art to goodbyes. It is important to let a person know what they have meant to you, to not hide from the emotions that surface, and to be grateful for the chance to have experienced it. And the most surprising part, the importance of giving freedom to express the loss. To wrestle with the grief, so that when you land on new soil your heart is tender and not cracked dry. It did not talk at all about it being okay to just run the opposite direction if all seems too hard to deal with. I am so glad I got to read that before the boys begin their goodbyes. I will not try to hide the loss from them but recognize the gift wrapped inside it all.
"The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace."
Numbers 6:24-26 ESV