Goodbyes are necessary. How do you tend to say them? What usually comes upon your mind when saying goodbyes? When was the last time you expressed goodbyes, not out of mere habit or formality, but for real?
Some years ago, I met a mourner who was pivotally struck with the fragile nature of life. Though the celebratory campaign of "strength," "resilience," and "endurance" of humanity is heavily promoted in society, in the end, each of us has a distinct – and promised – day of death. Strength, resilience, and endurance are wonderful aspects of the human experience, but they only last until the inevitable fragility of life takes over. The mourner I mentioned above was especially reminded of this after the experience of heart-breaking losses.
Such losses in life compelled her to reconsider the practice of saying goodbyes. Her conscience no longer allowed her to assume there will necessarily be a next time she will get to see or meet or speak again with those she loved. She knew better. She knew better as she chose to learn the lesson after encountering the realities of death-losses. She simply refused to continue giving others mindless, casual goodbyes. Rather, her goodbyes became full of meaning.
What would it be like to say goodbye out of a keen and sober recognition that the one you are about to voice just may be the last time to that particular person? Would your goodbye be any different? Would the manner with which you extend the goodbye change? Would you, perhaps, take more time and thought in your communication? Whether on the phone or video-call, or by email or text, how might your farewell-saying change when you make the choice to remind yourself that this may be the final goodbye?
There is an excellent chance that multitudes of individuals on our planet this very day are beset with regret for lack of goodbye to specific persons who are no longer living. “But Paul, death was not at all in my thinking for her that day; I was pretty darn sure I was going to see her again soon enough, just like so many times in the past.” Yet today, the fact of how it turned out she had no more tomorrows is what preoccupies the mind. So hard to believe. So painful to admit. So undeniable a loss.
And so, here is the proverbial question: If you could do it over again, how would you say your goodbye to her now? Seriously, take a moment and compose a draft of meaningful goodbyes you care to give to particular persons in your circle of relationships…
Goodbye As Gift
Intentional goodbyes are among the free gifts we can give others day to day. If I die before reaching home to kiss and greet my wife today, I know she will at least have the memory of my intentional goodbye expressed to her this morning. In her grief, it will be one less item of regret, and that can be my gift to her. This is no small thing as I have met those who were haunted by neglected opportunities when such goodbyes could have been conveyed. Why wait? Why risk by waiting?
I now give you my intentional goodbye, dear reader. Though I may not ever get the chance to know you, nor live long enough to submit anything else to Grief Digest, for what it is worth, I extend to you my sincere goodbye with the hope and urging that all your future goodbyes to all the persons you cherish will be deliberate and deliberately filled with meaning. In due time, I am rather confident that they will thank you for your gift of goodbye.
Much courage to us all in no longer presuming future meetings, and so gifting others with meaningful goodbyes each and every chance we are given.
About the Author
Paul Moon is married to Esther, and their children are Samantha, Chris and Drew.