I have always had trouble with goodbyes – so much so, that I never really say them. I didn’t realize this about myself until my sister once pointed it out to me at the end of one of phone conversations. See you later or let’s make a plan to get together or here’s my email address – write me, but never goodbye. Goodbye is just too hard, it has a certain finality to it and I have problems with limitations. Author Raymond Chandler said, “To say goodbye is to die a little,” and that is something I am certainly not ready for, in any respect. Sometimes I hear a song on the radio that I haven’t heard in a really long time and I think to myself, “I wonder if I will ever hear the song again?” Even something as simple and stupid as that can make me feel sad. My Christmas card list is nearly 150 people long. Most of them, I don’t talk to any other time in a given year, but for some reason (my affinity to never end things perhaps) keeps their names on my list.
Grade school friends, acquaintances I used to work with, old boyfriends, past neighbors … I’ve never been able to stop being in contact completely with any of them. I love people – and I feel that somehow, everyone’s story is linked together in a beautiful tangled mess that we call life. I akin it somewhat to needlepoint sewing. You can no more cut a thread than ruin the whole picture. Sometimes I feel like it is the ties, the knots and the tangles that really end up holding us together. Our relationships are the fabric of our lives. They are the color, the music, the heart.
After sharing all of that with you, I’m sure it comes as no surprise whatsoever that I’m really struggling with these last few days of school. Saying goodbye to my students has always been difficult for me. I know it sounds silly, but I sort of feel like Mary Poppins at the end of the movie when she knows that the kids don’t need her anymore. Whether or not I agree with it, the winds of change are coming and there’s not a single thing I can do to keep them from sweeping me away.
Maybe I’m all wrong, and they really don’t need me anymore. But what if I need them? What if I depend on their insecure questions to make me feel strong. What if I need their bright eyes and they’re brilliant smiles giving me a hello every morning and see you tomorrow grin before they shut their lockers? Sometimes I feel like I need our grand conversations because they reawaken me into wonder at possibilities I’d forgotten to dream. How do you say goodbye to children that you love? How do you look into those beautiful faces and think, I might never see you again. I read a quote recently, and though I’m not certain of the source, it said exactly what I felt. “And I just thought that you should know that I’ve been holding on while you’ve been letting go.”
And you should be … but it is still hard. Whether it’s moving on, living differently or passing away, goodbyes continue to break my heart. In the case of my students, I think of a quote from Boris Pasternak in his book Doctor Shivago that says, “Farewell, my great one, my own, farewell, my pride, farewell.” So now, to you my dear ones – farewell indeed. Know that I am filled with joy at the memories of who you were … filled with pride at the young people you have become … and, finally, filled with hope, that this is not a goodbye forever, because I love you all, and goodbyes hurt too much.
To all the exceptional farewells you’ve had to live through – you are not alone,