Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Hello and Goodbye

We are always saying hello or goodbye. There are daily goodbyes we casually throw over our shoulder as we run out the door, coffee in hand, or the morning greetings to our co-workers as we open the office door. There are also the less frequent ones…as we leave our child at the college dorm for the first time or the heart-pounding hello as your baby is put into your arms. Our lives are literally a series of hellos and goodbyes with those we love.

This summer I took a business trip back to my home state of Indiana. As the plane was taxiing into the gate, I received a text, one that I had been both expecting and dreading. One of my friends diagnosed with leukemia last Fall had been hovering near death for a few days. The text was from a mutual friend and it simply said, “She passed away this morning, but now she is in heaven.” I closed my eyes, blocking out the busyness on the plane that surrounded me and, in my heart, bid my friend farewell.

The first night of my trip I had the opportunity to spend time with some old friends; friends that I hadn’t seen in years. It was so fun to see them drive up – a fun hello. We talked, laughed and told funny stories about crazy things we had done and experienced together. I even took a trip back to the University I graduated from, reflecting on how life had changed since I said goodbye to the friends and places that were such a huge part of that season in my life.

While I was in my home state, I felt compelled to visit the cemetery where a very dear friend is buried. She was killed in a car accident in college – it was my first experience with death and it was a parting that changed me eternally. I spent only a few minutes standing in the cemetery and yet I caught myself remembering my last casual goodbye with her the night she headed out the door never to return. I said a more formal and lasting one a few days later at her funeral.

The trip back home was an emotional one for me. I hope I’m not painting a depressing picture though because emotional doesn’t necessarily mean it was bad. It was actually a very good trip. Even as I waited for my flight home I sat watching people greeting each other with hugs and smiles. It was a journey that brought into sharp focus for me the fun-filled hellos and sad goodbyes that we mark our lives by and that shape us into who we are. I spent the plane ride home reflecting on all those people I have greeted and parted ways with over the years. What a blessing to be able to love so many people that I am always experiencing either the thrill of hello or the pain of goodbye.

It’s all about putting your heart out there. The more people we love and who love us, the more wonderful greetings and tear-filled goodbyes we get to experience.