How Lucky Am I? Why Goodbyes Are Hard

Originally published Friday, 05 July 2013.

How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard?” 
-A.A. Milne

My family is first-date material. 

They’re the sort of tip-of-the-tongue people you keep at the forefront of your mind and stories. They’re what I share in the getting-to-know-you sorts of conversations, right after the “What do you do for a living?” and “What do you like to do in your spare time?” questions.

Spend five minutes with me over coffee. Just five. And before the steam can finish lifting from your cardboard cup, you’ll hear about how I'm the oldest of eleven cousins. You’ll hear about my mom and dad’s happy, strong marriage. You’ll hear about my Texan aunt who is beautiful in every aspect of the word (can beauty even be contained by a mere word?), prays fiercly and reminds me of Beth Moore. And you’ll hear about my Virgininian, English-teaching aunt who encourages me to read and write (and who also gave me the name of my very first fictional character to write about).

It’s not for brag rights that I share these things. They all just happen to be the lead characters in my best and brightest anecdotes. They’re the people that I’m serious about loving. They’re the people that I’d throw myself in front of in times of trauma before I would even realize what I was doing.

See, they’re more than just the quips I find amusing and things I share over coffee. They’re the very reason that I have to–that I must–believe that God exists. 

Because saying goodbye to them is just too hard.

We sort of said it to each other this morning–goodbye–at the frayed edge of our annual weekly beach trip. These trips were a tradition born long before I was. And I hope that one day I’ll have a daughter that says that about our vacations, too. She’ll say that our trip to the Outer Banks, North Carolina was born before she or her mom ever was. 

Maybe she’ll blog about how much she loves it, and how much she hates saying goodbye too.

Because if she’s anything like me, she’ll hate goodbyes. Like the goodbyes we had today. We stood under the cottage, all of us going different directions. Carolyn on a flight to Savannah, nana and pop in the minivan to their home in Glen Allen, one set of cousins going to the beach for the day, another set flying to Dallas. 

And me, driving my little red Toyota Camry back to Virginia Beach.

Friends, there are no harder goodbyes than the ones that we almost said to each other today. 

We said almost-goodbyes, but not quite. We said, “I’ll call/text you tomorrow,” or “Let me know when you’re coming to visit.” 

Because saying goodbye is nearly impossible for people like us.

I had a girlfriend tell me once that she loved saying goodbye

“It means that you have another opportunity for a new beginning,” she said. “It means that something else is right around the corner.” 

But as I sit on my front porch, alone, watching the drops of water slide off of the side of my glass of Pinot Grigio (because white wine equals summertime), I think that I’d rather not have said goodbye to my family this morning. 

I think I’d rather rest in our cottage–with all of us. All 19 of us. Forever. Even if that means sharing a bathroom with five other people (two of them boys) for the rest of my life.

How lucky am I to have such hard goodbyes in my life?

I could make the wine glass warm by the way I’m running my fingers over its rim. Thinking, dwelling, processing this week. I hate goodbyes and new beginnings. They’re not exciting. They’re heartbreaking.

I’d rather rest in the tattered, well-worn and familiar of my family. I’d opt for salt water in my hair, and a nap in the sunny sand. Resting in the old traditions and stories.The ones we tell each other over and over. The ones we relive and relaugh. 

I’d rather have a hot cup of coffee on the splintery deck of the beach house named “Can’t Waite” with my mom. I’d rather sleep on the bottom bunk of a room for four rather than the twin bed that I’ll rest on in my Virginia Beach apartment tonight.

Because right now, in this post-vacation limbo, I’m not feeling as though I’m on the brink of something new and exciting. I’m feeling the only sort of panic-stricken way that makes me write. (And you know I’m upset when all I can do is write.) 

Thank goodness and God for writing and wine, is all I can say. 

There’s a soreness in my throat that happens when I've swallowed too much ocean water and when I've said goodbye to the people I love best.

There has to be something stronger than just the mere ordinary strands of our borrowed DNA tying us all together, isn’t there? There has to be something more than our annual trips to the Outer Banks. It has to be more than our funny stories, and mutual heartbreaks and prayers that makes our time together so rich, and our time apart, our goodbyes, so devastating.

It has to be God.

I have to know that when we all say goodbye, that we’re going to see each other again. That goodbye isn’t really goodbye. That there really is a Heavenly Father who sees all of this–my crazy, fun, outrageous, hilarious, loving, lucky family–and smiles. That we’ll never really be separated or too far away to love each other.

I have to know that suffering through a hard goodbye only means for a rejoicing hello in our eternal future.

Perhaps there are only a few things that I will ever know: that there is, in fact, a God; that a goodbye is really only an I’ll see you later.

And that I am one lucky girl.

What about y’all? Have y’all ever had a hard goodbye? How do you know that God exists, if you know for sure? Leave a comment below (you know how I love to read!)