the letters in goodbye (8.16 am)

as a missionary kid in papua new guinea, my growing up was well seasoned with goodbyes.  since relationships were strongly flavored by the unique situation we were in, our love for each other was bold and intense.

goodbyes were more than a perforation…they were a tearing away.

year after year we learned the art of surviving them.

we infused farewells with all the heart we had.  gathered at small airstrips for a loved one leaving…we storied, we laughed, we wept.

we pressed in close…stretching together to it’s thinnest, avoiding eye contact with packed bags, pushing away the inevitable less one.

and our greatest defense against everything we were to each other being swept off the table:

goodbye letters. 

from note cards to lined notebook pages, we pressed them into each others hands with an understood ‘for later’.

they were what you mean to me…i’ll always remember…don’t forget. 

they were every joke, code and just between us memory. 

they were thank you, i’m sorry and i love you kneaded together.

we tried to capture a year or a lifetime of love and slip it into our friend’s leaving hands.

to be read while tears streamed down on airplanes full of strangers.  we prepared them as salve for hearts cracked by loss. monuments to what had been real…to point at when doubt stepped into the room.

they were the flavor you carried in your mind, still with you long after the meal was finished.

i wonder if the disciples ached for a chance to have those last days back with jesus.  to say their goodbyes and make them count.  to hand thank you, i’m sorry and i love you to their  friend and teacher and lord.

i think  jesus re-appearing those last few times was his goodbye letter…slipped into the hands of those who had grown to love the sound of his voice,  how he fit into their lives, how they were different because of him.

“…A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”…”  (john 20, NIV)

i think he loved them with a reminder it was real.

giving them something to point at when doubt stepped in to the room.


10 thoughts on “the letters in goodbye (8.16 am)

  1. You know, you had a very different experience of goodbyes…. I don’t remember many “proper” goodbyes, actually, such as you describe. Often, it was a case of when I got back home in the holidays, or back to boarding school after the holidays, people/friends were just gone. Only years later, I realised that in many cases I never got to say goodbye properly, not work through the pain of friends leaving, mourn the loss, and as a result, each time a friend ‘just left’, the walls around me got thicker so that the next leaving wouldn’t hurt so much. Maybe those walls were also a protection against Jesus, sort of a “why do you make it hurt so much, why do you let so many people in my life leave”….slowly I am able to grieve those losses and start taking down those walls.

    • i thought my reply to this ages ago and for some reason it didn’t reach the keyboard! i was thinking those kinds of goodbyes would have been so much more difficult in the long run. you miss that flood of pain, but it’s closure too… i think we all carried so much grief into our adulthood, a bunch that we thought wasn’t grief too, stuff we thought was just how it had to be. i heard this talk once about how people carry grief. it was so light bulb momenty…all the different ways we carry our grief. i really want to find a way to share it with people. planning to track the lady down someday at my church. when i realized how much grief i had, i was able to hand it to god finally…or sometimes hurl it at him. painful but cleansing. i’m glad those walls are coming down for you!! really truly. xo

      • only just saw your response…. my light bulb moment (though it was an energy saving light bulb moment – you know, how the energy light bulbs take ages to come to full brightness ;-) ) was reading the TCK book.

  2. Brought back so many memories! Very good point that as painful as those goodbyes were, they brought closure to both those leaving and those left behind. Thanks for putting it into words. – Linda

    • linda…thank you for taking the time. i appreciate it. i love when there’s a chance for people to browse. glad you found the MK posts. ;) and i’m so glad you understood. xo. –kris

  3. I spent 3months with my mum before God took her home. During those months I was so busy taking care of her that I never really as you put it wrote or spoke a goodbye letter. I wish I had, I wish I could, but I can’t and I won’t because When I see her again The old will be gone and the new will have come.

  4. Kris, you said it SO well! I remember that airstrip and the many tears I shed and shared there. Precious moments to be with farewelling dear ones….. etched forever in my memory!

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