1324 GA Highway 49 South | Americus Georgia 31719

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Goodbye

Saying goodbye rests heavy on me. Joan died – my sister-in-law and a hero of mine since I was twenty. I haven’t had the opportunity, or I haven’t taken the opportunity to talk with Ann, my niece, about those last days. Odd, though, I did ask her if she remembered her father. This only child of Joan and John was just three years old when he died. She said her memory was more a sense of him, no specifics, but rather a sense. “He liked music,” she said.

I know that John asked that she come into the room in their home where he lay. She crawled up beside him, and he told her how much he loved her, that he was sorry he had to go. She kissed her daddy on the cheek. She did not know it would be the last one. Music was playing.

I have left a few people and a few places in my life. I live where coming and going are commonplace. Goodbyes are frequent. Through the years, I have grown more and more aware of how important it is to say goodbye well, no matter the circumstances. Koinonia has a ritual that has evolved for saying goodbye to interns and long-term guests. There are even guidelines for leaving the membership. For me, goodbye is difficult, even with rituals and guidelines. It is difficult; it is important to do it well.

Joan coached me long, long ago on how to leave. It was a place of employment, so not quite so dramatic as death. She surprised me, though, when she said it could be like a death and that I should leave space for grieving.

“I’ve never heard you speak negatively about anyone there or the work you do.” 

“I love the people. It’s a good place.”

“Have you told anyone you’re thinking of leaving?”

“You… There are some who would jump all over it and tell me to do it. Others would try to talk me out of it. I don’t want all that.”

Joan and I talked late into the night. She did not take either side, as I knew she wouldn’t.

When my discernment was done, I went to my boss. She would be the most impacted by my leaving. One thing she expressed appreciation for is that she heard the news from me and not through office gossip. Joan had suggested that I go to her first if my decision was to leave. My boss thanked me for continuing to do my work. Sometimes, she guessed a person was planning to leave when she saw their job performance slacking, and mine hadn’t. Joan had asked me if my work had been affected by my struggle to make a decision and to be intentional about continuing my commitment to doing a good job. My boss and I discussed the date of my departure and when others would be told.

There was no drama. Well, some drama when a few people started speculating about all the unfair treatment I had received from my supervisor. There had been none. I had nothing negative to say, all positive. The talk subsided after a while.

There was a whole lot of mutual respect between my boss and me, and we remained in touch for a long time after, but with time, contact faded … until Koinonia twenty-five years later. She reached out when she read an article that I was in Georgia, and now we correspond on a fairly regular basis.

Joan demonstrated how to say goodbye when death is inevitable and goodbye, at least on this side of the curtain, is permanent. I don’t know all the specifics yet, but I imagine it included talking first to her children, Ann and Tim. Doug, her husband, was with her when the doctor shared the news. I know she talked with her four brothers. All got to travel to see her, and she spoke with them regularly by phone. There were lots of phone calls. There would be no gossip, no false stories circulating to make them doubt her love for them.

It was a long goodbye. She had two years with family and friends after the diagnosis. I’m sure each of her grandchildren had time with her one on one. She got things in order. I’m sure there were tears, but I know there was lots and lots of joy and laughter. Ann will tell me all about it in time.

Not all of us have had or will have the chance for a long goodbye. But whatever the goodbye, take the time to make it as holy a goodbye as you can.

2 Responses

  1. Love your story. Sounds like quite a woman as are you. I have always thought Koinonia was a wonderful place. I grew up about. 40 miles away. Never got there but some. friends of mine in the early 1970s did. They. were put up and as always treated so kindly, I now live in california but you. never know, i might make it one day. With respect, alan

  2. Thank you Bren. I have realized that those hard, tear filled good-byes are signs that something significant has happened. Your reflection reminds me of this one more time.

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