Strength for the Goodbye

“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly.
What is essential is invisible to the eye.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince

This is the time of year when parents are saying goodbye to their children. Some are taking their children to college for their freshman year. Others may be taking their young ones to preschool for the first time. Even those who watch their children step up into the yellow school bus to begin a new school year often experience a blue, goodbye feeling.

I am one of these parents. Last weekend we drove our youngest child ten hours away to begin his freshman year.

There are lots of things that make it easier to say goodbye to our son. There’s been a growing tension in our home; he has been carving out his turf, his routine, his approach to life…that have sometimes conflicted with my turf, routine, and approach to life. He’s ready to fly out of the nest and try out his wings.

This goodbye brings with it such an amazing mixture of emotions. A friend getting ready to take her son to college for the first time posted on her Facebook page: How can I be so happy and so sad at the same time? Yup- she nailed it.

When the moment of goodbye arrived, we knew it. After unpacking his odd assortment of bags, boxes, and bundles, and helping assemble lofts and shelving, we stood awkwardly in his dorm room. “It’s time,” I said quietly to my husband. He nodded.

I worked hard (very hard!) to wear my Game Day Face, as my son had asked me not to cry. I gave him a huge, prolonged hug, told him I loved him, and quickly exited to make our way down the concrete dorm stairs. No looking back. Along the way we observed parents doing the same thing. One mother had a long, shell-shocked face as she walked alone back to her car pulling a large, empty suitcase. My heart went out to her.

The word “goodbye” has offered me great strength through this goodbye experience. Goodbye is actually a blessing of sorts that means, “God be with ye” or “God be with you.” Somehow that makes it easier. To acknowledge that a Loving Presence will accompany my son is reassuring. Knowing that we remain connected through and in this Loving Presence gives me strength. Much of the life that matters is invisible and most all faith traditions teach us that the spiritual path involves waking up to connections that we can’t see. This takes such time, attention, and patience!

As we live through the many goodbyes of life, perhaps we are being invited to trust that there is a new way of being together that we can’t yet see or comprehend. There are ever-shifting landscapes within relationships. It’s easy to look back and see where we’ve come from – we carry snapshots of our loved ones in our minds and hearts. The challenge is that we can’t see the horizon that lies ahead. We can only journey step by step, seeking to hope, pray, and trust in the Holy One who holds all of us together.

May you know the Source of strength, courage, and hope as you live through your goodbyes.

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