“Saying Goodbye,” column for Sept. 13, 2016

Some things get easier with practice. But saying goodbye just keeps getting harder.

I’ve been saying goodbye all my life. I’m pretty good at it. And fast, too. Sometimes I’m out the door and gone before anybody knows I’m leaving.

But I’ve never liked doing it. Unless I couldn’t wait to leave. If you’re eager to leave, it’s not a goodbye; it’s a “good riddance.” A real goodbye is one you say to someone you love, or a place you want to stay, or to a time in your life when you are happy.

I’ve said my share of those kinds of goodbyes. I suspect you have said your share, too. Why do they keep getting harder?

As a child, after my parents divorced, I hated having to say goodbye to my daddy. He hated it as much as I did. So he came up with a plan to make it easier. Instead of saying “goodbye,” he said, we’d say, “See you soon.”

Grownups like to think they’re clever. I didn’t want to disappoint him, so I went along with it. It didn’t make me miss him less. But it reminded me that we’d be together again and that helped me feel less sad.

We said those words countless times when I was growing up: At the end of every visit. When I went off to college. When he walked me down the aisle at my wedding. When I saw him in the hospital after he had a stroke. And when he called me the last time, before he took his life.

The day he was buried, I stood by his grave and whispered, “See you soon, Daddy.”

It didn’t make me miss him less. But it reminded me that we would be together again. And I sorely needed to be reminded.

The hope of reunion is a small dose of comfort, but sometimes it’s enough to help you get by.

When my three children were babies, I tried my best to make goodbyes easier for them. I’d swear to them that I’d be back soon and that nothing _ no power in heaven or earth _ could ever separate them from my love. Then I’d say, with a big goofy grin, “See you soon!”

It never worked. They’d cling to me like drowning cats, sinking their claws into my skin and howling hysterically.

Sometimes I miss those days. But the kids outgrew them and so, I guess, did I. By the time my oldest left home for college, we were taking goodbyes in stride. One long hug (when my boys hug you, you know you’ve been hugged) and a quick “I love you” and finally, “See you soon!”

I waved, dry-eyed and smiling, as he drove away. Then I sat on the curb and bawled like a calf.

That’s my version of a refined goodbye. What’s yours?

These days, it’s especially hard to say goodbye to my grandkids. They aren’t old enough to understand that goodbye doesn’t mean forever. Actually, I don’t quite understand it myself, but I’m trying.

To make our goodbyes a little easier, I ask them three questions:

“How much do I love you?” I say, and they shout, “All!”

Then, “Where is your nana when you can’t see her?”

“In my heart!”

Finally, I ask, “And where are you forever and always?”

“In your heart!” they say.

They know grownups like to feel clever, so they go along with it. But this morning, Randy, who is 6, had another question. I’d just spent three days with him and his family in their new home in Montana of all places. We’d had a grand time, but it was ending, as usual, with my heading back to Las Vegas.

“Nana?” he said, his green eyes and copper lashes fighting back tears. “How many days until I see you again?”

I held his face in my hands and told him the truth. “I don’t know exactly how many days. But I promise it will be just as soon as possible.”

He studied me for a moment, then nodded and smiled.

One last hug, one last “I love you,” and finally, “See you soon.”

If only soon were sooner.

Comments

  1. Karen Ebert says:

    SO enjoyed you on Sunday in Salina Kansas..OF ALL PLACES!! Your message is always from the heart and remains in my heart with sweet memories…

    I do love your column, and your candid Grandma stories..We now have 7 grandkids, ages 15 to a set of 2 yr old twins..they grow so fast…LOVE them every chance you get..

    My mom was dying at the young age of 64, and one night I called to talk to her and asked how her day had been…she said ” It was a bad day..BUT the bad days make the good days all the better”…I try to remember that when “bad days” sneak up on me…

    Thanks for sharing your wisdom, love and friendship with sooo many…Come back Soon..See you Soon!!

  2. Deanne Sims says:

    In our paper this was titled: Parting really is
    sweet sorrow
    I am 76 years old and I remember my
    Grandmother crying when it was time
    for me to leave. But the “See you soon”
    was the greatest! The last time I talked to my
    son he said, “We’ll see you”. Four days
    later, he died suddenly of a heart attack.
    Then I remembered and I was thankful.
    He was with the Lord and I knew
    what it meant. That was 7 years ago and
    I can look forward seeing him with Jesus.
    Thank you for touching my heart.

  3. Monica Floyd says:

    My 3 & 5 year old granddaughters had to move with their mother to Arizona a year and a half ago, so very far from Western Kentucky where my son and our family live, when their parents split up. I have seen them twice in this period of time and practiced the “See you soon” goodbye when they flew home in August. It was agonizing for me but I think they did very well. Your column touched my heart today in many ways. Thank you.
    Monica Floyd

  4. Amos White says:

    Awesome again. Look forward to reading you on Sunday mornings. Read you soon.

  5. Deb Hanson says:

    Dear Sharon,
    Thank you so much for your writings….they touch my heart in so many places. You seem to get it all….bless you. We no longer have you in our local paper, our choice of paper changed, but I look for you every week. Thank you for sharing your life with us…you make a difference…your life has not been easy, but you have made it wonderful. Keep on writing, I’ll be waiting….

  6. Nancy Young says:

    I love your column. I wish I could have an opportunity to meet you in person. You are so special. Your column touches my heart so many times. I am 81 years of age and have advanced macular degeneration so it is very difficult to read the newspaper, but I never miss syour column. Pleae keep writing about your life and outlook on life. It is a real blessing.
    Qcomcast.net

  7. shashi saini says:

    Every day I thought to open your website to read new column and million other chores kept me skipping it . Thank God I found a few minutes today and feeling blessed to read it. Thank you Sharon it is as beautiful as other posts. I would say little more with Randy. God bless you and your family!!

  8. Cathy says:

    What a lovely piece! Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, I enjoy them very much and they often inspire my own writings 🙂 hope your day is wonderful and full of hellos!

  9. Stephanie Balentine says:

    I am 54 and when I was a child almost every time I remember crying it was when I was having to say goodbye to my grandparents. I loved them so much and I hated leaving their house or if they were leaving mine! I am crying just thinking about how I miss them now! But you are exactly right – I was in their heart and they are still in my heart and my Gram has been gone 21 years now! I hope if and when I have grandkids that I can teach them those three questions when we have to part! I love your life stories! Thank you for sharing with me and all the rest!

  10. Sheila Torres says:

    You never cease to amaze me with your love and warmth. Bless you ❤️

  11. J Bruce Baumann says:

    I hate long goodbyes, and it seems to make less stress for all. Just leaving with “I love you” as your last memory avoids so many emotional traps.

  12. Carol Toothman says:

    Beautiful!!

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