There are some seemingly insignificant and subtle skills learned in life that most of us take for granted. One of those life lessons involves the use of a word we frequently use, but devote very little time and thought to its true meaning and significance. Some words can have such far reaching and lasting effects on our lives. The word goodbye is one of those words.
Some years ago I asked a very good friend of mine to tell me about her life. I listened to her for over an hour as she talked about the experiences, both good and bad, that fashioned her into the person she became. When her story was finished I asked her to give me one important thing I should know about life. She thought for a moment than said “you must learn how to say goodbye”.
Goodbye is a word that, when spoken, can create so much emotion in the minds of both the speaker and the listener. The word can stand on its own, and doesn’t need complementary words to make its point very clear. Goodbye though sometimes means we will never see or speak to one another again.
When you tell someone goodbye with the knowledge that it will be the last word you will ever speak to them, it hurts. When you know that you will never see their face again or hear them speak your name, it hurts. Very few things are forever, but that goodbye will never be spoken again and will linger in the minds of the two people.
Some goodbyes simply mean that two people are parting company for the time being but will see each other again. Those casual goodbyes are not the ones my friend was referencing to when she long ago offered her advice. Those goodbyes are spoken more as a matter of courtesy with no sincerity.
I now understand that saying a final goodbye to someone doesn’t erase, but rather enhances the memory of that person. I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing. Speaking for myself, it’s been a little of both. I truly believe that saying a final goodbye, in some small way, may bring finality to something and encourage both people to take with them the feeling they can continue on no matter where life’s path takes them.
I think I’ve become too proficient at saying goodbye. I would prefer to have had much less experience using the word. My fear is however, that I will have many more unexpected and unwelcome opportunities to say more final goodbyes. I’ll have to say goodbye to someone that I care about very much, someone that I will miss and someone that I will always remember. I know I’ll also always remember that goodbye.