No Time to Say Goodbye
By: © Betty Sue Eaton
There are many things we do or are engaged in that we know when it’s time to say “Goodbye”, “It’s Finished”, “Project Completed”. Some of these activities are only hours long, days in duration, sometimes years in the making, but surely we all have an idea when the thing is done, over, finis, completed. And we know when to let go.
I can design, cut, grind, foil and finish a stained glass project in only a matter of hours if it isn’t too complex.
Many times it may take several months to bring it to fruition, and the results are beautiful whether the project is for me or for a commission customer. Even if it is only a few hours long, we invested some of our time, talent, and heart into it.
My college education took me seven and a half years to accomplish from start to finish. It was a journey of learning both of text book and lecture material as well as life learning that I had no knowledge of before I enrolled.
It was a journey of absolute necessity if I was to survive in the coming years, and there was no question that it simply must be completed! When I handed in my last final exam and received a final grade from the professor, I knew that the arduous trip was finished, over, done!
But how do you know when its time to say “Goodbye” to a loved one whom you expect will not be with us for long? How do you know when their life is going to be over?
My friend of almost fifty years died suddenly, or so it seemed sudden to me. She was a loyal friend to me as a confidante, mentor, advisor, counselor, supporter, and sister not born into my own family. My husband and I visited her for a short time on our way back from a two-week’s stay with our daughter in another city. What can you chat about with such a friend in only a couple of hours? How can you cover all the things you would love to say in just a few minutes?
There is no way to sort out the most important things to begin with so most are left unsaid hoping your dear friend will read your thoughts in your eyes and tone of voice, in your gaze into her eyes trying to read her thoughts as well. Then it was time for us to get back on our way home in distant Utah, and we were gone.
Only a few months later, a phone call one morning told me that my very dear friend had passed away in a Lubbock hospital. They would only say she died of a lung disease, and because of my age, I should not plan to attend the memorial service. That was not difficult for me to accept as I had known for years she was battling emphysema. On that last visit to her home I noticed with shock that she was carrying around a small oxygen tank and was breathing from it as we visited. Even when I visited her and her husband before they retired and while I was still a cigarette smoker, she would excuse the smoke inside her home just to visit more without my going outside for my habit. Her door was always open to me anytime day or night, and often I took advantage of the offer and spent many weekends with them.
Her death came as a terrible shock to me. In my own desire to have her stay with us here in our mortal world, I denied her impending death. I knew it was coming yet I refused to even acknowledge the possibility, even when she wrote that she was so depressed at many of her other friend’s deaths she couldn’t even bear to raise the blinds and dress for the day. I chided her about that telling her that the ones who were left took joy and pleasure from just seeing her always cheerful face and hearing her caring voice.
Now she was gone. She was gone and I didn’t even get to tell her goodbye! I could never tell her how much she meant to my life and how much I loved her. It was too late! Maybe that is what grief is all about. Maybe we finally realize that it’s too late to tell our loved ones how much they meant to us, how much we loved them and how very much we will miss them. But when DO you say Goodbye?
In the case of my dear friend whose encouragement sustained me through the death of two of my children, a divorce, seven and one-half rigorous years of college and the privation that went with them, there were no “Goodbyes”, no confession of how much she meant to me and how much I appreciated her for the lovely person she was for me. I think that was what made the grief for her so deep and painful.
Then, I began to think rationally again and understood that through our last visit only a few months before, she could have told me but chose not to. I believe she wanted me to hold that optimistic glow I carried out of her home that day; and later, she would look back upon it and feed on it in the time she had left.
She was always there for others in whatever way she could help them. She was a giant of courage and encouragement until the very last breath she had. That is what I will remember and love her for in the time I have left.
So how do you know when it’s time to say your goodbyes? The time to say “Goodbye” is every day! Every day that we live, we should tell those we love just how much we do love them. We should tell them they are very special in our lives for being just who they are, and because God allowed them to come into our lives. Christians accept that God orders everything in our lives: our mates, our children, our families, our destinies. If we listen, He also tells when we should say “Goodbye” to our loved one who will inevitably be called home to Heaven and the home that Jesus told us He was going to prepare for us.
There is a saying in psychological circles of advice to married people experiencing difficulty in the union: Do not let the sun set on anger between you and your mate. I will enlarge that further: Do not let the sun go down on neglect between you and those who are significant in your life, be they husband or wife, family, or friend, for we do not know the hour when God will call any of us home.
The time to tell them how much they mean to us is everyday in some way, verbal or nonverbal. In doing so, we will never have to say as I did, “It’s too late! I never got to tell her goodbye!”
If you are grieving for a beloved friend who has been taken away, please remember they are now at home with God the Father in heaven where there are no longer any “Goodbyes”. May you find peace and comfort in that wonderful knowledge. God promised and He is always true to His word.