“You don’t want to see her take her last breath,” a family friend warned me as I nervously pondered the idea of watching my mom slip from this life to the next. I just took the friend at her word. I didn’t know. I had never actually seen anyone pass away before not to mention even fully wrapped my mind around the idea that the most beautiful and courageous woman that I had ever known would be meeting the One she loved the most right in front of my eyes. Even though the day had come and the reality of the inevitable sat heavily in my chest, I still could not bring myself into the moment. I was an alien in this world, experiencing someone else’s pain, living someone else’s life and facing someone else’s demand to say goodbye…and it was the most gut-wrenching yet the most graceful thing I had ever witnessed. I turned to text another family friend that it would be any minute now before “it” happened then just minutes later turned back to my mom to find the doctor in the room with the look of “it’s over” sympathetically fashioned on her face. I whispered- probably thinking that I didn’t want my conscious self to hear the anguish that her answer would cause- asking the doctor if that was it. She said, “Yes” and proceeded to do the routine checks that doctors do when a patient passes away…..and that was it. After sitting at her bedside for days with family and friends passing through and whispering final words of comfort and release, THAT was my goodbye. Unexpected yet expected. Painful yet pleasant. Burdensome yet beautiful. GOODBYE.
I find myself reliving those moments when it’s necessary to say goodbye- not to a person that is passing– but to a season that is passing in a relationship. I think about how letting go, even though it may hurt, does not have to be full of anxiety or animosity. It can be a gracious goodbye once you realize that the relationship is no longer beneficial or healthy. Saying goodbye to my mom in that moment, helped me to see that I did not have to be angry, annoyed or frustrated when I said goodbye in other moments. It taught me that goodbyes can be healthy transitions into “the next life” without being tumultuous.
I had to tell a love interest goodbye once. I explained to him that pursuing anything more in regards to a relationship would not be a good idea. In fact, it would be counterproductive to what I ultimately wanted- a marriage built on trust, loyalty and partnership. He could not understand when I told him that although things had turned out quite contrary to the way I imagined they would, I was not angry and had not planned on becoming his enemy or speaking ill of him. His shock was apparent through the silence on the phone. His intense dissatisfaction with my stance reminded me that most people equate goodbye with arguing, bickering and/or a court date in which two people are standing defensively in front of a judge. NOT IN THE WORLD I LIVE IN. I want to maintain peace and balance within my life. I want to be able to take the lesson of what I learned in the relationship and not take the luggage or baggage of hurt feelings, regret, bitterness or anger allowing them to suffocate my chances of having other relationships that are healthy and whole. Saying goodbye gracefully, with THAT understanding and with THAT goal in mind, allows me to move on in a way that is most beneficial to us both.
I can be honest with you. It takes strength to walk away from ANYTHING or ANYONE that you love or once loved. It doesn’t matter whose fault it was. It doesn’t matter who bears the burden of guilt or blame. It takes courage to say goodbye in peace to a situation that may have caused you pain, and my eyes fill with tears as I write this because somehow seeing the words on the screen- seeing the black print on the background- makes it real to me. It reminds me that we must say goodbye the right way so that we can heal the right way. Our exit out of one relationship or friendship will determine our entrance into future relationships. The fact is we may not always know what to do with the frustration or emotional baggage that the relationship can leave us with. We may not always know how to answer all of the what if’s, what about’s or maybe’s that cross our minds after the final curtain has closed. We may not always be sure of the epilogue and what happens to the main character, but we can rest assured that a graceful goodbye can surely lead us into what is new, what is next and what can be the beginning of some of the best times of our lives.
Life can begin again after goodbyes- when they’re done right. The key to a great beginning is a great ending, and that part is up to us.