Fall is coming. I can feel it. I love it — the smell of the harvest and the cool crisp morning air, but with the coming of fall we say goodbye to summer — and my wife cries. She loves summer and the warmth it brings. All good things must come to an end as I have been told, but do they really? I think the good things just keep getting better.
I was reminded this week at how tough saying goodbye to things or to people can be. A couple of my dear friends had to say goodbye to their father this week. His race here on earth had come to an end. While that pain and sorrow here on earth can sometimes be almost unbearable, that journey home is filled with much happiness and such a revelation that we will only know when our journey is complete.
As I had spent one morning doing some reflection this week, I came across a post on Facebook from a sister of the aforementioned friends. She was posting a tribute to her father and what he had meant to her. Let me paraphrase some of her words: My Dad went home to be with Jesus this afternoon. I will miss him every day, but we have relief in knowing where he is and that his suffering is over. He was always a kind, generous, positive and a humble person. He was a hard worker and he could fix anything (I almost felt like she was describing my own father). He could craft just about anything out of wood or metal. He always loved sharing his faith.
What hit me about this post was the part where she says he could fix anything and could craft about anything he needed. She was talking about worldly things here, I believe, but the thought hit me when also thinking about my own father. They created and crafted something so much better than any worldly possession. They had a hand in creating us — in crafting life and nurturing it so that someday we would be able to stand on our own two feet. How much more precious of a thought is that than any worldly possession could ever offer. I love how she speaks about her father — an unconditional love.
Why are goodbyes so hard? Is it the finality of things? Is it the unknown of the future and what that brings?
A few years back my wife and I welcomed our first child into our lives. That was an amazing day. I will never forget our doctor saying to us that this little one had to be a little girl, because she was far too pretty to be a boy. I am not sure whether I should have taken offense to that, but she was right. We were blessed with a beautiful girl, and in that moment our lives changed. Our purpose was no longer about us, but about her and what she would become. I had no idea on that day what emotions would be created throughout the years and how tough it was going to be when we left her two and half hours from home at a college. Goodbyes, even when not permanent, still leave a mark.
Life can get sticky and saying goodbye never seems to get easier. This past month we put our youngest on the bus to head to kindergarten for the first time. Although this was a temporary goodbye, it was tough all the same. Would he have a good day? Would he miss me? Would he make friends? Would he be happy? Goodbyes are never easy. How about that first trip you make in your car alone after getting your license? It is thrilling, but it is also scary at the same moment. Maybe you are thinking back to a time you watched one of your children get married, graduated college, or moved away to start a new adventure. Goodbyes — sometimes they sting.
But the beauty of goodbyes is that we cared for someone so much that seeing them gone brings us pain. It leaves us with a void that needs filled. Our youngest son struggles to say goodbye when his older siblings leave for college each year. Although he knows he will see them again soon, he just doesn’t like to say goodbye. And he is only 6.
Ten years ago, we said goodbye to my father. Ten years — that seems like an eternity. He missed seeing my youngest child born, he missed my two oldest kids’ high school graduations, he missed so many family gatherings and holidays, he missed his youngest son’s wedding. But did he? He was there, just not in the flesh. He is also in our memories and I see him in my children and those things can never be truly gone. And sometimes, just sometimes, he comes to me in my dreams and I can hear that gentle voice for just another moment.
Goodbye — why is that so hard? Sometimes saying goodbye is a good thing. Letting go of that old car that just needs to disappear, shedding some of that unwanted weight, or kicking a bad habit. Those things I am OK parting with. But today my heart hurts for a family who will say goodbye to one that was loved. One that built not only a home, but a family that will miss him.
I hope one day to have loved so much that people can say they miss me. What a testament to a life well-lived. Until then, water the flowers, take the dogs for a walk, mend broken relationships, love the broken-hearted and enjoy every moment the good Lord grants you, because one day home will be calling for you and for me.
I’ve wandered far away from God; Now I’m coming home. The paths of sin too long I’ve trod; Lord, I’m coming home. Coming home, coming home; Nevermore to roam. Open wide Thine arms of love Lord, I’m coming home.
Save a place for me Dad. Someday I will be headed for home. Leave the lights on and some of Mom’s pie on the table.
Goodbyes, they can be tough, but they can also be just the beginning of something far greater. This is not a goodbye, but a see ya later.
Chad McConnaughey is the Highland County recorder.