All my life I’ve said hello. I love meeting people and giving them a warm greeting. I love opening my front door when a friend or neighbor comes and saying hello. I enjoy meeting a person for the first time and starting our conversation with “Hello, I’m glad to meet you.”
There’s something special about a warm greeting, about a genuine “hello.” I’ve learned that you can make people feel accepted and welcome by how you greet them. You can “make their day” by giving them a friendly smile and a giving them a sincere, heartfelt, “hello.” There’s nothing like a warm embrace that says “Hello, I’m so glad you’re here,” even when words aren’t spoken. The hug says it all.
And, yes, I’ve said my share of “goodbyes.” I know the pain of leaving your child with a baby-sitter for the first time and you have to go knowing the child is feeling abandoned. I know the goodbye when your child leaves you and enters that first day of school. I know the goodbye when your child spends that first night with a friend, away from home, and you can’t peek in and see if the child is safe and soundly sleeping. I know the goodbye when your child leaves for college or moves into that first apartment. I know all the goodbyes when family and friends come for a visit and you have such a good time but then they have to leave and the parting is so difficult.
And, yes, I know the goodbyes when parents die and you hold their hand as they take a last breath and your goodbye is so final and the huge void that suddenly takes place defines the meaning of emptiness like you never imagined. I know the painful goodbyes when siblings die and you’re left with a bag full of nostalgic memories but the phone calls and the emails are no longer there and the emptiness never goes away.
But the goodbye that stares me in the face and haunts me is my own goodbye. All the hellos are gone forever and I’m left with how to say a final goodbye. How do I say I’m leaving you and won’t be able to ever say hello again. A heartfelt goodbye, like all the ones I’ve said over the years, now seems inadequate. A simple goodbye somehow doesn’t seem to do it.
No teachings, no workshops, no trainings prepared me for the final goodbye. Nothing has given me a meaningful way to do it. I find myself thinking about all the words left unsaid when the final goodbye comes, all the things I wish I had shared but didn’t get around to doing so, all the little meaningful things i could have done but didn’t. Feelings of regret over what I’ve left undone try to creep in and overwhelm me.
The final goodbye is SO FINAL and I have no idea how to handle it. There’s no way to practice for it. Or so I thought.
Then I got to thinking. Why can’t my final goodbye be like the hellos I’ve shared all my life and have enjoyed so much. Why can’t my final goodbye be a warm embrace, a friendly smile, a moment of joy, something to celebrate.
It dawned on me that all my hellos have indeed prepared me for the final goodbye. I can handle it in the same way. So when the time comes, come prepared to rejoice. Give me a warm embrace, a kiss on the cheek, and a friendly smile. And I’ll smile back and say goodbye just like I always said hello.