Trouble With Goodbye

Time nor distance can heal as much as heart

I have trouble saying goodbye sometimes.

A lot, actually.

It doesn’t stop me from traveling, or from meeting people I know I may not see again for a long time. Or from inviting people to visit me, knowing they will leave. But goodbyes are still hard.

There have been a lot of hellos lately, which is fun and exciting. And in the past few weeks, there have been some very significant goodbyes.

While in Munich, I had the pleasure of meeting my dear colleague’s mother. She welcomed us into her home, which was especially remarkable since she was not feeling well. Her health had been declining for years and breathing was especially challenging. A formidable woman, she made the remarkable effort to come and dine with us out on the patio that evening. Besides my colleague and her mother, our merry band included another fellow coach and the newly-arrived (from Russia) health aide. My German is very limited and I know even less Russian, but somehow we all managed to chat in a mixture of languages.

The next morning, after some time together, my colleagues and I made our way to Dachau. More instances of goodbyes there too. On the way there, my colleague expressed the thought that her mom might let go this week and leave this life. Normally my colleague lives 7-8 hours away by car from her mother, and she thought her mother might take this visit as an opportune time to depart.

Less than 10 hours later, we got the news that her mother had passed.  She was gone before my colleague reached the hospital. Even with the prediction, the finality of the goodbye we’d had that morning came as a surprise. I, too, had thought I would see her mom again later in the week and even if that was a bit uncertain, I thought for sure my colleague would have seen her when she returned to the house that night.

The amount of grace, professionalism and presence I witnessed in my colleague throughout the week as we continued to work will serve as a model for me for many, many years to come.

From Munich, I flew to Florida. Work is nearly always a part of my trips, and while that was true for this trip to Florida, the most poignant reason for me to be there was to say goodbye. My nephew is in service and will be going overseas.

This goodbye was not a surprise, but it was, and is, complicated and difficult all the same. I think about him a lot and what it would be like to be him in this moment, saying goodbye. I think about all those who serve anywhere, for any country, and what their goodbyes are like for them and for those they love. And I think about how much we might all have in common.

I wrote this for my nephew today. He left Florida a few days after I did. I don’t know that he will see this blog or the poem he inspired, but I hope he knows I’m with him.

It’s not easy where you’re going

It’s not easy where you’ve been

Seems like yesterday you stood just high enough

To reach the level of my chin

And now you’re going off to face

An Unknown greater than any other

Miles away

Miles away

Worlds apart

But you’re here today

I tell myself

You’re here today

And in my heart you’ll stay

Wherever this life takes you

I will be with you

I will stay with you

Beside you at night, in the dark

Even if fire rains down around you

I can’t hold your hand from where I stand

But if you hold me in your heart

Like I hold you in my heart

Then you’ll know you’re not alone

Not now, not ever, alone

I am with you when you lie awake and wonder why and wonder if

I am with you if you cry or shake your fists, close your eyes and drift

Into peaceful dreams

They are my wish for you

Peaceful dreams

And until I see you again, know

That I am with you

I am with you

I am with you