Never did say good-bye

What happens when we don’t get a chance to say goodbye?  Do we live with a sense of unfinished-ness?  Or do we move on and squish the unresolved stuff into that deep well in the gut where it gurgles and festers but never sees the light of day?

There are so many unfinished goodbyes.  A beloved, a friend, an acquaintance dies suddenly and there is no way to ask him for his cobbler recipe or to thank her for bailing you out that time.  A couple divorces, and friends must choose a side, and in-laws are cut off.  I know of two  (and there are more) congregations where the pastor was summarily dismissed, there one Sunday and gone the next, and parishioners who were for and against that person never had the opportunity to say things like “I never liked you but you showed up when you needed to” or “that sermon you preached on the woman at the well turned me around.”

A hospital chaplain used to admonish pastors and interns and everybody to keep our goodbyes current.  What happens when we don’t, when we lose the opportunity to get in a last, good word?  Sometimes it’s a mess, when we don’t say goodbye.  Sometimes we cling like shrinkwrap to the next best person.  Sometimes we grieve everywhere but the place we most need to.  Sometimes we wander lost, the way my cat did when his littermate died suddenly; he roamed the house, mewing and looking around, so sad and confused.  Bereft too, I would say.

I once served a congregation whose previous pastor had been let go suddenly, with no going away party.  I served there part-time for seven months, but when I left, they threw me the biggest shindig you can imagine.  I was bowled over; my husband reminded me that really, the party was as much for the previous pastor as it was for me.  Interim pastors learn that sort of thing, but I wish my predecessor could have been there too, since 90% of the party was for him.  (I did keep and still treasure the quilt they made for me.)

Our word goodbye derives from a 14th century word meaning “God be with ye.”  There is hope in that – though I didn’t get to say goodbye, I choose to believe that I and the one I miss are with God.  But one last hug would have been nice.goodbye

One thought on “Never did say good-bye

  1. This blog was deep. Getting to know you through your blogging and I like what you have to say. You say such interesting and thought provoking things. I know the hardest goodbye for me was when my longtime girlfriend, of 8 years in the Army, had to leave and join her husband in Germany for their next assignment. They stayed with us for a few days and she and I talked and laughed that last night until morning light came. That was in Arizona, as she departed through the door saying to me, “Now I do not want to see any tears!” I consented. The moment the door shut I burst into tears knowing this may be the last time I would ever see my military friend. But we had a sisterly bond and have kept it to this very day. We have not seen each other but have kept in close contact. At first after she left I went into a deep depression and just could not get out of it. I still miss her but I am so grateful our paths crossed and we have stayed close contact sharing things deep and personal that only you can do with best friends or sisters who you are close to. Thank you again. Kathy Harmon


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