I am horrible with goodbyes. This is just a fact of my life and no matter how hard I try to build up my nerves to be able to deal with people’s departure or my own departure from situations, I find goodbyes to be one of the hardest parts of life for me. But the difficulty hasn’t been because the goodbyes haven’t been necessary. Every goodbye has the ability to show you something or has the ability to help you realize something about yourself or others, if you’re open.
Over the past week, I have had three different scenarios in which I’ve said goodbye: a funeral, letting go of a situation, and releasing the students I’ve worked with all school year. I processed them all differently as I’ve had time to think and I’ve had to come to this conclusion – it was all for the better.
My uncle’s funeral was Monday and he had been sick for a long time. As one of my aunts said, my uncle had many close calls before he actually transitioned. As our family gathered at my Aunt Patty’s house on Monday evening, I sat and talked with my cousin for awhile about life, which was very therapeutic for me since I was coming off of a weekend of lots of tense emotions about life and its direction. I’ve never been especially close with a lot of my extended family and that fact hadn’t really bothered me until I sat there on Monday night as we laughed, talked, and shared. I listened as my Aunt Patty gave wisdom to me and my cousin on where we are in life and thought of how much more I could be receiving if only I made a better effort to be intentional about being around. This goodbye helped me see the goodness of God in the treasure of extended family.
The second goodbye occurred over this weekend. I had planned a road trip with my best friend and we were in three states over a span of 48 hours. Saturday morning we were able to brunch with my good friend and rejoice with her over a desired professional opportunity that had opened up for her. Saturday afternoon, I met up with an old friend and though parts felt familiar, the realization that this person was not the same person that I met and loved struck me in a particular way. At one point in our lives, we were very important to one another, we loved each other, and we desired the best for each other. At one point in our lives, the thought of us not being present in each other’s worlds just did not make sense. But as I sat there on Saturday afternoon and as we talked and joked like old friends, I couldn’t help but to recognize the elephants in the room and ponder how we went from there to here. All the right questions were asked and it was clear that there was still some level of integration of our two worlds but I looked at the old friend and couldn’t really recognize him. We parted and though there was the faint promise of us possibly hanging again before I left, in my heart I knew that it wouldn’t happen. In my heart I knew that it was time for a real goodbye and when I couldn’t muster a tear to fall, I knew that it was real this time. You carry people in your heart and you expect them to always carry you the same way and life doesn’t always happen like that. Sometimes when you’re out of sight, you really do get to be out of mind. It doesn’t necessarily make people bad people but sometimes it means that you love in a deeper way. I always knew, for all of my friendships, that when I was willing to say goodbye, that would be the end. I am the friend who will usually fight until the bitter end but when I see the need to let it go, it’s done. As I drove back to the DMV late Sunday/early Monday, I thought over the scenario many times and I thought about all the things that could be unknowns to me. But what I had to force myself to recall is that everything that I am supposed to know, I do know. This goodbye taught me to discern the changing of seasons and to love myself more than trying to preserve something past its time. As with anything in life, anything that’s used after its optimal level begins to depreciate. My value and the gift of my presence had clearly depreciated in my old friend’s eyes (though never said but actions will ALWAYS speak in the absence of words) and the longer I made myself available to be depreciated, the more it would happen. I chose to say goodbye and without any fanfare. I’m at rest.
The third goodbye was to the students I’ve worked with this year. I had the…auspicious…occasion to work with 6th graders this year. Day in and day out, these kids kept me talking to Jesus because there were very few dull moments. Over the months, they went from rolling their eyes and talking back to “Hey Ms. Burton, hit the Nae-Nae!” to “You should come with us to Sandburg next year!” There were some students who wouldn’t smile and had attitudes bigger than the sky but by the end of the school year, they were greeting me with big smiles and hugs. Additionally, the staff worked hard to ensure that the students made major academic strides this school year and on the whole, they did. I have never felt more proud than when I was made aware of the students’ test scores and documented academic progress when I returned to school on Tuesday. These kids, my “babies”, were on my nerves more days than not and I was THOROUGHLY looking forward to June 25. However, when they walked through the hallways for the last time as students of our school yesterday and when they came and gave me the biggest hugs, I had to seriously choke back tears. I thought about how far many of them had come from September and I was overwhelmed. Some of them were overwhelmed too as I saw some of the students shedding tears. This is a day we all had been looking forward to and now it seemed that some of us were finding it hard to say goodbye. But this was definitely a good goodbye so in the midst of the tears we smiled and laughed and waved…and took selfies (lol). This goodbye reminded me that progressing in life requires transition and moving on from places. That’s not a bad thing.
It’s been an emotional week but I’ve shed few tears. The currents of emotions over the different scenarios have left me feeling a bit odd but I know that in time I’ll be back to myself. Sometimes you wish that life didn’t afford you some goodbyes but the one thing is for certain and that is as long as you live, there will always be new hellos. Hellos to new experiences, new people, and new places. Sometimes the hellos will come by way of reintroduction and you can decide whether you want to be open to that or not. Either way, no goodbye is the end of you. So open your eyes to what’s real and embrace the possibility of what’s new.