“Is There Ever A Good Way to Say Goodbye?”, column, Aug. 21, 2012

Some things get easier to say with age. “I love you,” for example, and “I am sorry.”
I’ve gotten pretty good at saying those things. Also, “Have you seen my glasses?” and “Can you speak a bit louder?”
But I’m still not much good at saying goodbye. I try, but the words get stuck in my throat and I end up spitting them out like a mouthful of Listerine.
Is there ever a good way to say goodbye?
The trip to California was short but sweet, just a few days in Monterey to see my children and grandchildren and celebrate my grandson’s birthday.
Randy turned 2, as he will gladly tell you (“I 2!”) and show you by holding up five fingers. His swim party was a roaring success. I didn’t even have to get wet, as pool duty was covered by his mom and his dad and his other grandma, Saint Ro Ro.
I slept at Randy’s house (so he could knock on my door at 6 a.m. and beg me to come blow bubbles) but I also hung out with Henry, Randy’s cousin, my grandson, who is almost 1.
Henry likes me to sit on the floor while he crawls around looking for things he shouldn’t put in his mouth. He especially likes it if I throw a blanket over my head. I try not to take it personally. Sooner or later he rips the blanket off and laughs when he sees me. I laugh, too. We do it over and over and it just keeps getting funnier.
I could blow bubbles with Randy and wear a blanket for Henry forever. But the next time I see them _ soon, but not soon enough _ those two little boys will be a little less little. Bubbles and blankets will soon be replaced by much bigger things.
Children don’t wait for you to spend time with them. They grow up, with or without you.
If I’m not around, how will they know that I love them?
I thought of that as I tried to tell them goodbye. “Your nana loves you,” I said. “She has to go away, but she’ll come back.”
Randy made a sad face, the kind he makes when he doesn’t want to go to bed. Henry smiled a smile that in years to come will get him out of a lot of trouble. I wish you could’ve seen them.
The flight to Las Vegas took about an hour. My husband was working, so I caught a cab for the 20-minute ride home.
The driver, a pleasant, well-dressed man in his 40s, said it had been stormy in Vegas, lots of thunder and lightning.
“It scares my horses,” he said.
Horses? I shut off my phone.
He told me all about his mare and her colt. The colt, he said laughing, “thinks I’m his dad!”
He spoke with pride about his three children, especially the youngest, a 5-year-old boy.
“He loves the horses. He wants to ride all the time!”
I watched his eyes in the rear-view mirror, how they lit up as he described for me his boy riding bareback on the mare.
Then the light grew dim.
“My wife,” he said, “she died of breast cancer. She had such a big heart. She helped everyone.”
After her death, he said, the mare suddenly became fiercely protective of the boy.
“She follows him around,” he said. “She kneels down to let him climb on her back. She won’t let the dog get near him!”
Sometimes, he said, he thinks his wife is still watching over the boy through that horse.
He looked at me in the mirror, gauging my reaction. I nodded.
“Love never ends,” I said. “It will find a way by any means necessary _ even a horse.”
We both laughed at that.
He pulled into my driveway and I started to get out. Then I stopped. This was one goodbye I wanted to try to get right.
“You know,” I said, “I lost my first husband to cancer, too. My children were older than yours. They’re grown now, and I have grandchildren. But we still feel his love every day. Your children will know they are loved.”
He smiled his thanks. I waved goodbye. Then I went inside to write his children’s names in a safe place where I won’t forget them.


  1. Susan Grosser says

    Sharon, I feel like you know me…when you said “If I’m not around, how will they know that I love them”….I burst into tears because that is exactly the feeling I’ve been trying to put into words. You see, our daughter and son-in-law recently accepted a job transfer and moved out of state, along with them went 3 grandchildren who are the absolute most precious things I’ve ever known. They went from living 5 minutes away to 4 hours away and my heart is hurting. Only another Nana could know how that feels…the first time we Skyped, I smiled all the way through the conversation and was able to be brave until we said our goodbyes and disconnected the call….the dams broke and the tears flowed then! Maybe it will get easier, but in the meantime, thank you for writing down what I was feeling!
    God bless you, from one Nana to another!

  2. It’s been 40 years since you and Coach Randall inspired me when I was a student of his, as well as one of your Young Life groupies. You continue to touch my life and for that I am blessed. I cherish each column of yours as we move through the years and through life. No matter where I live, I’ve continued to follow you. Your column never fails to inspire me, either through tears or smiles. I’m sure that cab driver will remember your kindness.

  3. Wow.

    If somehow you can say this to him now, please, tell him, get your friends together, video them, have them tell stories and memories about their mother for the children to know her by and to listen to and to play back whenever they need it. We did this for a very young family that lost their dad.

  4. Thanks for sharing this story Sharon. I’m with you on how easy it is to say lots of things that as a younger man, I struggled with. I tell my grown daughters that I love them far more now than I ever did and I’m more at ease admitting to my failings (big or small) now.

    Again – Thanks for sharing yourself thru a good story.

  5. I am working more full time than ever (after my first retirement) and have been struggling to “know” when it’s time to slow down. I think you just gave me my answer. Grandchild number three comes in November. I want these precious babies to know me, and that means having time to give them. Thanks again, Sharon.

  6. It’s especially hard to say goodbye when the grandbabies are young, and every day brings change. But believe it or not, in a few years, it won’t be so hard. My younger son and his wife and kids just moved 2.5 hours away, so my son can start his junior year at UC Davis. Although I miss seeing my six and four year old grandkids, we’ve discovered Skype, and they love talking to gramma that way!

  7. Funny you should write this column today, Sharon. I guess you’re still reading my mind as you did when you lived here on the Monterey Peninsula. So, this morning I got a tearful phone call from my daughter who had just put her son on a plane for LA where Sam is just about to start his last year of college. “It never gets any easier,” she said. “I feel like his younger years rushed by too fast. And now it’s too late to get that time back!” All I could think of to say was that I understand. I felt the same way when I left her house just this early morning. Thanks for your column. I’m sending it off to her.

    • I have been waiting for your next column, I love to read your articles. My daughter and granddaughter just moved from Ohio (where I live) to Florida. My husband and I are going to see them for Thanksgiving this year. I am sure the goodbyes will be sad. The way you put your life into print is magical and helps people like me (an old lady of 66.) Hopefully we will become snowbirds one day and will be able to be with them part of the year. Kepp up the inspiring work you do, it keeps us going. Sammy

  8. Well, I should have seen that coming! I now have tears in my eyes. I am fortunate to have all of my grandchildren close by. But even at that, sometimes it is still hard to say goodbye, even for a few days. I love the connection you made with the taxi driver. He won’t forget you!

  9. Another gem and more tears, good tears, Sharon. What a blessing you are to others for sharing your life through your wonderful gift of writing.

    All the best,


    • Marsha Gleason says

      When my Sunday paper comes, your column is what I read first. It maybe Monday before I get to it!! You always address something that touches my heart. Today this story reminded me of God’s Divine Appointment. He put you in that cab to encourage that man. We all have Divine Appointments, Hope I don’t mess up mine.

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