It's no wonder that most of us see partings as negative. As children we are impressed with the idea that "goodbye" is a frightening word... an unknown to be conquered. It looms like a great black hole waiting to swallow us up. First there is the anxiety-clad farewell as parents leave us in the care of sitters... often perceived by a toddler as abandonment. Another goodbye as a mother or father leaves us on the steps of a schoolhouse to conquer a whole new world... one which to a 5 year old seems fraught with monsters of uncertainty. As we grow older we are confronted with the ultimate parting as we lose ones we love to death... a great void that seems to consume those around us. It seems that our lives become saturated with separations... each one leaving its mark on our own existence as we carry with us bits of a life that once was and is no more.
In looking back, I can see those 'goodbyes' as precious gifts... bits of freedom carefully doled out in precise amounts at exactly the proper moments. I have always believed that the greatest good I can do for my own children is to equip them to confidently go forth into the world secure in the knowledge of who and what they are. One of the ways toward this is through a series of goodbyes designed to strengthen and empower them for the time when they move into a life of independence. And though the pain of each letting go sometimes seems unbearable... out of love for them I force myself to continually nudge them from the nest.
Unfortunately, I seem to have placed that principle in a little box all its own labeled "For Children Only"... and in doing so, I've failed to recognize that children are not the only ones who deserve freedom. There are moments when goodbye is the greatest gift we can give to those we love... even greater than the love itself. Love can disguise a multitude of shortcomings, casting a light on our actions that can make even the most self-serving desires seem noble and good. We convince ourselves that we are all-powerful... all-knowing... the answer to the loved one's every need... the missing link that can grant eternal peace and happiness. And instead, in spite of abundant love, we are often the very barrier hindering contentment and well-being for those we care most about.
We cling to beginnings... births, new friendships, marriages... these are the things that we prefer to fill our treasure chest of memories with. But it is the sad times... the hurdles we cross... the pain we face with each loss... the partings... that do us the most benefit. They are the source of strength and character. The goodbyes are what force us to look deep within ourselves and see exactly who and what we are... independently. The goodbyes are what make us the people we are.
Often in saying goodbye, we not only sacrifice a part of ourselves, but also restore to the loved one a bit of themselves.