Is there ever a right time to say goodbye to someone you love? Ever the depth of words that express the ache your heart is feeling? Or the numbness that pervades your whole being?
In truth, you have worked towards this day, this hour, this very minute with dread and undeniable denial. It’s not the feelings of regret or the knowledge that perhaps things could have been different, but the reality of the here and now. The trapped feeling of having to leave again, knowing that this maybe the last time. Ever.
You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place. A feeling that you’ll not only miss the people you love, but you’ll miss the person you are now and this place because you’ll never be this way again.
Only in the agony of parting do we consider the depths of love.
There are always goodbyes. Some are simple, fleeting expressions said as part of our normal daily activities.
Off to work, school, shopping, church, gym, or anywhere that is taking you away to a different place. Usually, the goodbyes are uttered unconsciously as automatic behaviour. We don’t think about letting go.
Significant events in our lives demands letting go, enabling the next steps in life;
Steadying the baby with a firm hand, and then letting go allowing their first step.
Standing at the school gates and watching the 5-year-old disappear into the playground, seeing the little legs supporting the oversized school bag on their back.
Running along holding the bike, and then letting go to set the child freedom of travel.
Helping remove the L-plates off your car and handing over the keys, with a silent prayer of protection.
Weeping with joy watching two lovers join as one.
Amongst the steps of life are many goodbyes — of the past, or of who we were. Regrets that linger, but events that linger to remind us that life doesn’t stand still and must move on.
I must confess that I have spent a whole lot of my life dwelling on events from the past that seemed unfair. Choices I made that caused me to feel ashamed. I even obsessed about what should have happened, what shouldn’t have happened, what I should have done, what I shouldn’t have done, and how everything would be better if I could just go back and change it all. And even though I wanted to let go, I allowed my life to revolve around my former pain, and my feelings and beliefs about the past to limit my effectiveness and happiness in the present.
My revelation over the past few weeks is that there will never be a time when life is simple. There will always be time to practice accepting that. Every moment is a chance to let go and feel peaceful.
Returning to my place of birth, to the family who remains close to my heart, and in particular, my parents whose relationship with me has been tested over the years, saw me revisiting past mistakes again and again. It saw me allowing feelings of shame and regret to shape my actions in the present.
I didn’t realise how much I had clung to frustration and worry about the future of these beloved people as if the act of fixation somehow would give me the power to make things right. I held stress in my mind and body, accepting that state of tension as the norm. It was my sense of identity of my past.
I adopted a stance about regrets. I adamantly declared that I had none from my past. I have since changed that mantra.
Regret is a tough but fair teacher. To live without regret is to believe you have nothing to learn, no amends to make, and no opportunities to be brave with yourself and your life.
Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.
How many times have I read this and tried to apply to my life? The reality of these words struck the core of my being when I stood on the porch of my parents’ home, wrapping my arms around them with the knowledge seeping into every part of my mind that this maybe the last time.
Time, kilometres and life choices mean that the years will keep moving on, but I wouldn’t be near to rekindle memories with them.
Letting go, saying goodbye is everything to do with forgiveness and nothing to do with self-justification.
Forgiveness is not forgetting or walking away from accountability or condoning a hurtful act; it’s the process of healing so we can truly live.
Whenever you are asked to let go, consider the act as one of faith. Trusting the Grace of God to make that parting easier and peaceful. There will often be tears, heartache and struggles, but the separation will become a victory, and joy will come in time.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.