Life, Military Life

The Art of Goodbyes

I don’t like goodbyes and have never been good at them. The first of the ‘hard goodbyes’ I learned to hate was every time I had to say goodbye to my cousin, my best friend, after a visit. Whether it was watching a vehicle drive away while I wildly waved my hands in the air, or being in the vehicle driving away and wildly waving out a window, or trying to say ‘goodbye’ after a long phone call, daring each other to be the first one to do it. The goodbye always left a small hole in my heart, like the warmth had been removed and a cold, sore spot had been left in its place. These painful goodbyes taught me a valuable lesson: there were relationships worth the heartache of goodbye. The goodbye was miserable, but the joyous reunions were even more precious! The mantra began to echo with each goodbye, “I shall see you again.”

I didn’t move around much as a youngster, but as soon as I got married, it became very apparent that God was going to help me learn the art of goodbye. The military life offers a unique aspect to the goodbye. Sometimes you say goodbye to a friend knowing that friendship wasn’t made or meant to survive the long distance strain or situations that will arise. Other goodbyes are very painful because you have high hopes of keeping in touch, but understand the reality of distance makes it hard. Even with the best of intentions and the best technology available, it’s never the same as those precious face-to-face interactions. The other painful aspect to the military goodbye was watching some pull away and guard their hearts from hurt even as it was hurting me to say goodbye to them. They went into self-preservation mode, threw up a security wall, to avoid the pain of goodbye. However, there was great joy when I could say with confidence about a friend’s goodbye, followed with, “I shall see you again.”

We can’t ignore or leave out the goodbye to a loved one on their deathbed. Saying goodbye to someone who is dying is very hard! If you have time to say goodbye, you are probably painfully watching their life ebb away, slowly fading like a lamp running out of oil. You desperately want more time to make just one more memory. But you also want their suffering and pain to be over. These goodbyes can be very different in nature, depending on the personal beliefs of the one ‘leaving’. If you share in the faith that one day you will walk the New Heaven and the New Earth with this person because their hope for salvation is in Jesus Christ alone, then goodbye can be adapted to ‘see you later’. Along with the deep, sorrowful goodbye is the peace of uttering “I shall see you again”.

Goodbyes make you think. They make you realize what you’ve had, what you’ve lost, and what you’ve taken for granted.

Ritu Ghatourey

You may be wondering by now, where is the ‘art’ of saying goodbye? Art can be defined as the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, but I’m going with definition (4) a skill at doing a specified thing, typically one acquired through practice. So if goodbyes are miserable, why on earth practice being good at it? Goodbyes offer so many opportunities to grow as a person! A goodbye makes you think and reflect. It gives you a reason to reflect just for a little bit on why the goodbye makes you sad. Sadness is the opposite of happiness, so leaving someone or something or someplace allows us to remember it with gladness. You realize what you have been blessed to have, what you are now losing, and maybe help you realize what you have taken for granted. Nothing quite helps you count your blessings like remembering all the things or people or places you miss having around. The realization of taking things for granted has helped me to adapt my own perspective in my moments of “now”. I don’t wait to soak in the good things of a new experience or place. I savor small things when they pop up. The more goodbyes you ‘survive’ and work through, the less they devastate you. Once you learn that the sun will indeed come out tomorrow, you have an easier time trusting the miserable process of good bye to end.

The biggest lesson in all these hundreds of goodbyes in my past is learning to look forward to the “hellos” that come. I can look back now and see all the friendships made as we relocated all over this world. If I had never said goodbye to one location, I would never have found the treasured friends in another. I have a smile on my face even as I write this remembering that all of my “hello’s” came about because of a goodbye. I have also had the pleasure of getting to see many of these friends again as we have moved about the world. Those are the BEST hellos! They offer me all the hope in my practiced goodbye because I did indeed get to ‘see them again’.

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.


And of course, this reflection was inspired by a song. I still tear up when it plays.

2 thoughts on “The Art of Goodbyes”

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