Originally published Sunday, 22 May 2016.
"Grandpa, it's Christina. I love you. You know that, right?"
I leaned in close to hear his response. In a brief moment of clarity, he responded in slurred words, "I love you too."
This was my final conversation with my grandfather. My goodbye. A week later he was home with the Lord.
Some goodbyes don't come with an accompanying pang of sadness. Perhaps the parting is only for a few weeks. But other goodbyes are more permanent. Those are the ones that are hard and hurt the most.
I've said many goodbyes in my life but saying goodbye to my grandfather was the hardest. And in recent weeks, I had to say goodbye to everyone I've spent the last twenty years doing life with as we moved from one state to another.
Goodbyes are hard because they indicate change. When one of my best friends moved away last year, it meant a great change for my life. Those weekly dinners at each other's houses were over. Spontaneous meet ups at the park or the beach would be no more. We wouldn't sit behind them in church every Sunday. After my grandfather passed, I would no longer hear his voice sing "Happy Birthday" to me over the phone each year. I wouldn't hear him laugh or share stories or complain about his order at a restaurant anymore.
Change is hard normally but when change happens with those with whom we have a connection, that's really hard. Saying goodbye to my church family, those people whom I have worked alongside, prayed alongside, cried alongside for all these years was especially hard. My roots there ran deep. Such change can make us feel unsettled. Lost. Unanchored. We don't know what will happen next. It's hard to imagine life any other way. It's what we've known for so long that anything else just seems wrong and out of place.
Saying goodbye also reminds us that life is fleeting. In the busyness of our daily life, we forget that time is passing on. Goodbyes are a poignant reminder that life has an end date. And because of that, goodbyes often bring regret. Regret that we didn't spend more time with our loved ones. Regret that we didn't say the one thing we needed to say. Regret that we didn't go deeper in our friendships. Before I moved, a friend commented to me that she wished she had spent more time with me. Goodbye's show us all the things we take for granted and just assume will always be there.
JOY IN GOODBYE
But goodbyes also mean that we've made connections, that we were part of something. They mean that we were known, cared for, and loved. In this way, goodbyes are a positive thing. Not everyone has someone to say goodbye to. As I left my church family, I left with the sounds of their voices, telling me what I meant to them. Though painful and sad, these kind of goodbyes are also sweet, signifying a lasting bond with another person.
The past year of my life has been a series of goodbyes. Dear friends moved far away. I lost my grandfather. My pastor resigned. And then I moved to another state. All of these goodbyes were hard and painful. I still weep when I think about my grandfather. I still miss my friends. I still wish things had stayed the same. But one thing that gives me hope and joy in the midst of all my goodbyes is the thought of eternity. I cannot wait to join together with all my scattered friends and lost loved ones, celebrating the great love of our Savior together, for all eternity.
This is our hope in all the goodbyes of our life. The pangs of sadness, the difficulty of change, the disconnection from others, will all be a thing of the past when we live and worship together as one united Bride in the life to come. Amen?