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Goodbye, farewell, so long, see ya later.

I recently said goodbye to someone I loved dearly. Although our family prayed for an end to her suffering, her final send-off was emotional and sad. It made me think about farewells and the variety of interpretations they can take on.

Can saying goodbye ever take on a positive connotation? For my students, saying goodbye before winter recess can indeed be positive. “Bye, Mrs. Hyzy. See you in the New Year!” How about bidding adieu to dependence on a parent? I have proudly witnessed my own children moving out of the family home and beginning their adult lives, freer of parental reliance (OK, so maybe not completely free of financial backing!)

We have all had situations in life where we’ve had to say goodbye to a failed relationship or friendship that has simply run its course. In the midst of the farewell it may feel harmful, but in hindsight it is always seen as a constructive step. In these situations it is best to rip off the proverbial Band-Aid quickly, move forward and not look back.

Work circumstances are fraught with goodbyes. As a teacher, I have had to witness more than my share of forced goodbyes to dedicated professionals due to budget cuts. There is nothing good about these farewells. I have also had the great privilege of seeing colleagues whisper goodbye to their teaching role and hello to a new administrative position.

Saying goodbye can feel neither negative nor positive. Graduation from high school is a uniquely emotional time. It is an end to 13 years of required, structured education. For those who are indecisive about their future – and what 18-year-old isn’t? – it can be incredibly scary. Seeing this ending as a beginning of wonderful things to come, such as college or work-related training, can actually be a positive experience.

Goodbyes can be swift or slow. I recall the days of simple goodbyes when I left a room. A quick hello, a moment or two later, helped my children learn that a parent would indeed come back. Slow goodbyes can be truly agonizing. We have had to experience more than a decade of goodbyes with my loved one – goodbye to clarity, recognition, language, independence and ultimately dignity. There was no choice with these goodbyes and each one felt like she was being robbed. I hold onto the belief that it will all make sense to me one day.

There is one common thread to all forms of goodbye – uncertainty. Dropping a child off at college is fraught with hesitation. Will he do well academically? Will he be a good fit at this school? We channel our powers of positive thinking but the uncertainty is staring us in the face. As a less than exuberant flier, goodbyes are always filled with a certain amount of anxiety and doubt for me.

I have tried to live with the notion of no regret. Life is not a dress rehearsal. We can’t rewind and try to do it better. I sadly think about all of the people who said goodbye to their families and walked out of their homes on 9/11, never to return again. Tomorrow isn’t sure for any of us, whether 9 or 90, so make today count.

For my wonderful mother-in-law, this goodbye was certainly painful for us. But I am focusing instead on the incredible greeting that she heard from her husband, who was waiting for her in heaven: Hello, Lynn. It’s so nice to see you again.