Wednesday Quotes
Time to Say Goodbye, Again
May 20, 2015

SailorsGoodbyeAt this time last year I wrote a piece on why when it is time to say goodbye, it is important that it be done well.

This last weekend was graduation at the college where I teach. It was time to say goodbye after four years to over one hundred young men and women, having grown very close to a number of them, and shared much with all of them. And now I go to my office to commence a professor’s summer work, starting with grading the final exams of students who have gone their own ways. Their absence is palpable; indeed it is downright jarring.

But life goes on, right? We raise our children, and even they move on. Our parents raise us, and in time, they move on. I’ve had the pleasure of making remarkable friendships through the years. How many of them too—including myself, have moved on, in one way or another.

Dear God; one day I will have to say goodbye to my wife.

A soul seeks that which is solid, enduring. Memory is key. It is a kind of presence of what is no more. But even the presence effected by memory can only really have solidity if memory of the past is leavened by some hope for the future.

As years go by I feel that my soul is a kind of space to hold onto things—to events, to shared toils, and especially to faces. I love faces; I really don’t want to lose any. Perhaps sometimes I’ll wonder just why I’m clinging to them. I resolve to remind myself that it’s not because I don’t have hope, but rather because I do. And what I’ve held onto will be a basis for recognizing, and rejoicing; again. Some day.

Image: Philip Sadee (1837-1904)

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  1. Well said, John! I would like to share with you that it’s never really “goodbye” my friend, but simply “Cheerio” or “I’ll see you again soon” as an old friend of mine taught me.

    1. You should. Always look forward, but remember your friends

  2. Thank you MaryAnn, Your point is a crucial reminder that no goodbye should be permanent. But a goodbye nonetheless it is; and it is our lot to endure them, all in view of a good end.
    Thank you David too.

  3. John, you expressed my own heart so well! I’ve often struggled with good byes…. On a related topic, I have wondered for years if our modern day technology that allows us to enshrine our memories so vividly… in the way of pictures, videos and the like, actually does more to prevent us from remembering the details of a particular event (moreso than the character of a a beloved) …. I was just wondering if you had any deep thoughts or philosophical leanings in whether or not taking pictures and videos prevents us from truly remembering the depth of the memory…. especially those pictures that we see all the time. I am not talking about the picture of a loved one on a mantle or pictures of our children on a favorite wall in our homes but rather the deluge of pictures that we take of an event. Perhaps our memory becomes lax due to the fact that if we are snapping pictures at a particular event we are not truly engaged in the event itself (like taking pictures of my son’s First Holy Communion… I didn’t really witness the event in reality but rather distantly through a lense? Anyways, thanks for taking time to consider my question! I hope you and your family are doing well! I miss seeing seeing all of you even after all these years of being apart…

    1. Kathy,
      Thanks very much for your comment and your question. I think you are asking the right question. We should always be careful to examine how technologies tend to shape how we act and experience life. It seems that you have raised two angles from which to consider the issue of picture-taking: how the picture-taking affects our presence and participation in the events of life, and also how the plethora of pictures might ‘take over’ in some sense for the role of memory. I too have often found that taking pictures can inhibit my participation in important events. It is interesting, for instance, how we can be obsessed with getting a picture of ourselves with some celebrity–as though we’ll need to prove to the world that we really were there. [It is interesting to look at photos of Pope Francis moving through a crowd; it seems that almost everyone is taking a picture. One wonders how that might affect simply engaging and experiencing the presence of a great man.] I’d like to think more about the second point, how our memory itself might tend to atrophy through the overuse of photos. You of course point out how fitting it is to have precious photos on the wall, or albums of great family vacation. I must say that I am very grateful to have certain photos of my children when they were younger, especially together with grandparents who are no longer with us. In sum, it seems to me that exercising a certain discipline and restraint in photo-taking can be salutary, as part of an effort really to live in the present and to be present to those around us. Yet this is compatible with enjoying the real advantages of the technology of photos.

  4. I was there for the graduation (of my son) and, though goodbyes are heart-wrenching, I thought the College managed the event extremely well, with plenty of opportunities to celebrate and see each other one last time, and especially, not too much pressure to meet the deadline to be out of the dorms and off campus.

    1. Agellius, I agree. The college does handle graduation and the close of the semester well. It is very important to wrap up in a fitting way.

  5. Agree with Angellius. We parents are profoundly thankful for the kind and sensible ways of this college. We are also aware that many of the instructors, you included, have no doubt passed up more lucrative/prestigious opportunities to be in this place at this time. We salute you, and offer our heartfelt gratitude.

    I’ve heard it said that in Heaven, there are no more goodbyes.

    1. Claire, Thank you very much. And indeed, I would dare to say that there being no more goodbyes is part of the very essence of heaven.