A dozen kinds of goodbye, and they all make my throat hurt

A dozen kinds of goodbye, and they all make my throat hurt
Photo, "Boy on a Bike, Lindley Road," by Rob Bowker. Used with permission of a Creative Commons License, found here .

Apparently Charlie Brown once said, “Goodbyes alway make my throat hurt.” I know what he means.

Even though there are lots of kinds of goodbye.

Like the one you say to a friend you’ve known for 25 years as you back out of her driveway, knowing that you’ll never see her again because her treatment options for cancer have run out.

Like the one you say to your parents when they pull away in their car, leaving you standing in front of your new dorm.

Or the one you say to your husband, dozens of times a week, each time hoping—because you’re a worrier—that it’s not the last.

Or the one you say to your kid when you drop her off at school in third grade and she has tears in her eyes and you know she doesn’t want to go to school.

There are the goodbyes that you say to the woman you met at Target who is buying “A Wrinkle in Time,” after you’ve spent about five minutes talking to her about the books you both loved reading aloud to your children.

And the goodbyes you say to someone, hoping you’ll never see him again because it has hurt so much to know him.

Some goodbyes feel final, and others seem to be a bridge to another meeting.

You don’t say goodbye to everyone. Not officially anyway.

Some semesters on the last day of class I feel embarrassed to say goodbye to my students because I’m feeling overly emotional about the term being over.

And sometimes, I wish someone well, not knowing if I’ll ever see them again.

I’ve never been good at goodbyes. They often feel a little bit violent, like a little piece of life between you is being ripped away so that you can go on your way.

It’s not as if they’re final most of the time. It’s just that I’ve learned the hard way that they sometimes are, and that life is never the same again.

Goodbye is admitting that you can, and probably need, to go on without another person. If only for a little while, maybe just a day or a morning, or maybe six months or a year.

Goodbye sometimes shows you that you can go on without another person whether you feel you can or not.

Goodbyes remind us that we’re in this thing alone. At least sometimes we are. And sometimes it feels good to know that you can do things alone, like when you remove the training wheels from your bike when you’re five.

The thing is, goodbyes also remind me that I’m bound up with others, that the way our lives intersect and overlap matter. I lose a little part of myself in the goodbye.

It’s more like when your dad gives the bike that last push from behind and then lets go. You’re riding on your own. But when you turn around and look over your shoulder, you wish he could come along. Riding that bike with him holding on made it easier to balance and made it less lonely. You could hear his voice saying, “You’ve got this.”

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