I have always had a difficult time saying goodbye.
When I was very young, I would cry whenever relatives or friends came to visit and it was time for them to leave, or vice versa. My mom told me that once, when we went to visit my grandmother in Virginia, I began acting very stubborn and irritable while my dad was packing the car. I couldn’t have been any older than four or five. My mom couldn’t figure out why I was behaving so poorly. Finally, she asked me if I was upset that we were leaving. I immediately burst into tears and cried all the way to the car, all the way through goodbye hugs and kisses, and all the way out of my grandmother’s driveway and down the street. I even remember sitting in the very back of my mom’s red Chevy Cavalier station wagon, waving at my grandmother through the rear window, sobbing the entire time.
This did not change much as I got older.
Once, while we were living in southern Alabama, we moved out of one house and into another on the other side of town. I was in third grade, and I went to school right across the street, so I walked to school every day. I had made several friends in the neighborhood, and I remember feeling very depressed for the first time in my life as I contemplated giving up what I believed was an ideal situation.
Later, at the end of my freshman year of high school, we had to move away from that town, three hours northward to Birmingham. That one was a long, painful, drawn-out goodbye. My mom took a new job, and after putting her through management training the company relocated her. In January of that year I had to pack up my bedroom in what is to this day my most favorite house I have ever lived in. In late February of that year I had to move in with my grandparents so that I could finish out the school year while my mom went ahead of my sisters and me to begin her new job. It was a long, sad, and very dark year for me. I felt angry, vindictive, and spiteful. I did whatever I could to rebel and be selfish. Now, I believe that if someone had asked me if I was just upset that I was leaving, I may have begun weeping and cried until the day my mom came to pick me up to take me to Birmingham.
Fortunately, I settled in to my new environment pretty quickly. I made several friends at my new school, and in 2001 I successfully graduated from Hoover High School. This brought about more change, and with it, more decision making. I lived in Birmingham for four years, and after working full-time for a year, I made a college decision: I would move to Springfield, Missouri, and attend Evangel University. This decision, however, necessitated that I once again engage in a long, painful, sometimes destructive, series of farewells. The most difficult one to date was telling my mother goodbye. She decided to work on the day I left for college, so I drove up to her store with my Honda Civic loaded to the seams. We stood outside in the parking lot as she cried and told me how proud she was of me and how much she would miss me. If you’ve ever made your mother cry, you know that this is, by far, one of the most terrible experiences one can endure.
Once again, I settled famously into my new city. Even though Evangel did not pan out for me in the long term, I made several friends there, most of whom I am still very close with. I even met the guy who is still my best buddy, friend, and brother-I-should-have-had. The summer after Evangel I met my wife. I would say that, in this case, “goodbye” lead to many more “hellos.”
College is a weird time. I went through some strange (and in retrospect, often comical) personality shifts. Through them all, though, I had my girlfriend/fiance/wife and my three best friends. Besides those four, there were many, many more close and dear acquaintances, as well as several frequently-around friends. For a while, everything was stable and solid. During that time I had more fun and experienced more joy than I thought life was capable of producing (until I had children…).
Then, inevitably, the next round of goodbyes began.
First, one friend moved home to Kansas City. Another left to join Peace Corps in Africa. One went to attend graduate school in Scotland.
The year before I got married, my three best friends decided to move to Kansas City so they could pursue a more prolific career with their band. These were the guys with whom I had truly grown up (whatever that means). We lived together for three years. We shared many, many meals together. We spent countless evenings, year-round, smoking cigarettes on the front porch. We lived in a state of perpetual “hanging out’ as we came and went from jobs and classes. We stayed up too late. We drank too much. We laughed and yelled and wrestled and watched movies and read books and played video games together. And now, they were leaving.
This is one of my most favorite photos.
The goodbyes continued as my wife and I had to leave Springfield and move to Columbia. We began to build a family and become connected when, once again, we had to move. Farewell. Goodbye. See you around. Stay in touch.
I really hate saying “goodbye.”
It seems that it will continue. Even though my former roommates moved to KC, it would seem they can still get further away. In a few short weeks the brother-I-should-have-had is moving to another state, as he has finished graduate school, found a fantastic girl who is, amazingly, willing to marry him, and he wishes to be closer to his family. All of this is fantastic, blessed news.
Why does it still make me so sad?
I suppose though, that this will not be the last. Eventually I will have to make a decision about whether or not to continue to raise my family in St. Louis or to move to another city or state. Eventually we will become older, and eventually we will begin saying farewell to those going home. One day we will have to say “farewell to shadow lands,” and leave behind, for a time, those we love and who love us.
I guess, in the end, it is in the “for a time” part in which I must take comfort. Even though goodbye is sad and scary and difficult, I believe that one day we will all end up calling the same place “home.” In fact, whether or not we know it, it is already where we belong. We are merely waiting.
Life is wonderful and beautiful and blessed, because each day is a day that the Lord has made. I love my life right now, and I am overwhelmed by the caliber of friends and family with whom I have been blessed. I guess that is why saying farewell is so difficult for me; I dearly love and appreciate everyone who is and has been a part of my life. Every memory and experience is a treasure. This life is full of amazing wonder if we are willing to receive what God is willing to give and has already given.
This life is good; I wonder what the next one is like.
I look forward to no more goodbyes.