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A gentle waving of my right hand, a soft, “Bye,” in numerous forms, and sometimes even a smile – gestures and words almost too familiar to me. Sometimes tears follow or precede these actions. Sometimes I manage to hold in all of my feelings until I am all alone, when I am free to write them all down in my journal and dot the pages with the tears that had refused to come before.
More than most people I know, I’ve had to say goodbye. Teachers, friends, family, and even situations and lifestyles. I guess, over the years, I have become resistant to the feelings that come along with watching someone walk out of my life – or walking out of someone else’s.
When I was little, it was always saying good-bye to grandma and grandpa until the next time or bidding a temporary farewell to a friend that I would see the next day. Time never seemed to go by quickly unless I was with someone I loved, and when that someone wasn’t there, sadness set in.
But as a child, nothing is ever to last. Friends sometimes come and go without much of a care. The simple reassurance of mommy or daddy can convince a six-year-old that they will reunite with their best buddy again soon. Tears can be dried with just a smile.
But as we mature and grow, saying goodbye doesn’t get any easier. We begin to learn what it means to be attached to someone. At the end of each school year, saying goodbye to our teachers is sometimes the worst farewell we will have to experience in a time span of months. Maybe we attend a summer camp and are forced to say goodbye to new and old friends when it is over.
I experienced my first real goodbye when I was nine years old. My best friend in the entire world – Emily – moved away. She, along with her family, just walked out of my life. And, eventually, we went from phone calls and get-togethers at the pool every summer to living separate lives. Goodbye was just the beginning of all of that.
After that it was the fifth grade teacher that had supposedly changed my life, then the vision instructor who had a baby, the piano teacher who had inspired me, and the friend/ex-boyfriend whose family decided to move to Ohio and leave my other friends and me behind.
And after the pain of all of those losses began to wear off, it was more teachers that I would never have again, friends that betrayed me, and neighbors that moved. It was friends who went to different schools, people who decided that there were more important things in their lives than me.
No more tears can be shed. Even if people do come into our lives for a reason and then sometimes leave, that doesn’t make it any easier to handle. Someone else decides to leave me, but all I can do is stand at a distance and glance back at them one last time before I walk away.
I guess that there is nothing that any of us can do to stop people from leaving us. Sometimes we’re in denial and keep their numbers in our cell phones’ memory cards, hoping that one day the phone will ring, and it will be them.
But I’ve learned that some things are not to last. You could meet someone and think that they’ll be in your life for a long time, if not forever, only to discover that something gets in the way of that, and you eventually stop getting phone calls or returned messages.
No matter how much it hurts, though, we cannot let our losses take over our lives. If we spend our days sitting at the computer constantly clicking the refresh button while gazing at our inbox or sitting on the front steps waiting for the mail to arrive, there is no way that we are ever going to get over it.
We have to remember that God is the only One who understands why people have to leave. Maybe they’re distracting us or have simply done all that they are meant to do. I’ll admit, it’s hard to have faith when someone leaves. When I lose someone, like an ex-boyfriend whose heart I broke or a teacher I only had for one semester, it’s difficult to bow my head and say, “Please bless so-and-so.”
There are those people who we will remember forever because they were once a part of us but are now a distant memory. There are those people who we wish we got to know while we had the chance, but never did.
And then there are the people who we will never have to forget, because God will never stop bringing new things into the relationship. Through every loss, through every hardship and every bad memory, they will be there, holding our hand and reminding us that we have been blessed.
All because we haven’t yet had to say goodbye to them. And maybe, just maybe, it’s in God’s plan that we never will.