A valued coworker left for a new job today. We had a nice farewell lunch at a local Italian restaurant and I had fun ribbing him for the last two weeks about deserting us for a new job. He has been a good friend and will be missed.
It made me think about how often we have to say goodbye.
I grew up a military kid, moving every couple of years. I know a lot more than I want to about goodbyes. I don’t like them much.
If it’s just a quick “see ya” as I leave work for home, or an equally quick “bye” as I leave home for work, I assume I’ll see that friend, coworker or loved one in a few hours, and usually I do. Still, if you love someone enough, some piece of you stays with them during the times you are parted and you never feel completely whole until you are reunited.
I know I felt that way when Harley was a puppy, and he’s “just” a dog. I can easily imagine how hard it is for a mom, sending a child off to Kindergarten, or a newlywed going off to work for the first time after the honeymoon. (Well, maybe I have more trouble with that one, but I have a pretty good imagination, so let’s go with it.)
Then there are the farewells like today, with someone leaving for a new job. Maybe it’s a friend moving out of state, joining the military or going on a mission. You may or may not expect this kind of farewell to be permanent, but I always assume it’s the last time I’ll ever see someone. It was so often true when I was growing up that I just don’t expect I’ll ever see them again.
The worst farewells are the ones where you know you will never be reunited in this life. Usually it’s death that separates you, and the finality of it is overwhelming and difficult and heart-wrenching and so sad as to defy description. There is nothing easy about death and I don’t intend to downplay the tragedy of losing a loved one. The only loss that rivals it, for me at least, is the pain of having to say a final farewell to someone who still lives, but who will no longer be part of your life, whether by choice or not.
I have been thinking of this often as I start this journey towards being a foster/adoptive parent. Many of the children in the system have had to let go of birth parents who were either unable or unwilling to parent them. How painful it must be to understand and accept that kind of loss. Then, to move from one foster home to another, making and losing connections to friends, neighbors and families.
I know how hard it was for me, and I had my family with me through all of the moves and upheavals that are part of a military life. I don’t think I would have been strong enough to survive on my own.
It makes me worry that I will let these children down. I don’t want to be yet another in a long string of farewells. I want to be the one home they can always return to and know I will be there.
You know, this parenting thing is pretty worrisome, and I don’t even have any kids, yet. Yikes! I’m going to be a wreck, aren’t I?