The Power of Goodbye
It’s been an awful week. Too many horrific deaths in Orlando, a child dragged off from his parents by a gator, and this morning my friend Alan died.
Two of those things were horrible, one was sort of beautiful. Alan had breast cancer, yes it happens to men. We knew he was dying and were able to visit him last night to say goodbye. He’s my husband’s friend of 51 years, they’ve pretty much shared almost an entire lifetime. We were able to hold his hand and speak about the things that matter — love, shared experiences, stories of fond memories and more. Mostly, we got to say goodbye. He was 67 and dying well before his time but his death, while sad, was peaceful and not the horror we think death always is. Why? Because we were able to say goodbye, to thank him for a life of love and friendship, to face together the inevitable, to finish what we started a lifetime ago, to welcome the relief of grief because when someone you love is sick, death is a relief. We talked about how in the end, we are only the stories we leave behind so we assured Alan, a writer, that he left myriad stories we will tell for the rest of our lives.
We got the call this morning that he had died and we were able to feel the grief and the sadness and mostly the beauty of the last moments we were lucky enough to share as the last friends to see him. I will be forever grateful for that.
Goodbye. Good. Bye. We wish you well on the other side; we hope your leaving is a good one. In many ways it’s a hopeful sentiment for the survivors to take with them as they move on to live without the one they love.
I was struck as I watched the loved ones on the news this week after the Orlando massacre. The main thing many of them talked about was the last communication with the person who died — the last text, the last phone call, the last post on FB, the last hug, the last touch. They talked about how much it hurt to find out too late that it was the last communication. I realized most just wanted that — to have the chance to say goodbye, a true and loving goodbye.
Maybe it’s not too late. If you have someone you love who is ill with a terminal prognosis, don’t wait for the call to come telling you their time is almost up. Say your goodbyes when you can. Don’t fear it’ll hasten death, it can’t.
If you’ve lost someone and never had the chance to say goodbye, as I did when my mother died, say it now, aloud. State whatever it is you feel and send it out into the universe or the heavens or wherever it goes when it leaves your lip. You never know who can hear you and you’ll feel better for it.
When I get off the phone with my daughters or when I leave them, I’ve made it a practice to say, “I love you,” most of the time. After this week I think I’ll change that from most of the time to every time.