Saying goodbye is never easy.
Even the times when I thought it would be easy, when I was glad to leave, when I couldn’t wait to walk out the door, I realized later that it hurt, that I had no idea how attached I had become.
I brought our cat to be put down one time. She had not been my idea. I resisted her, but as often happens when the kids grow up and leave home and forget that they had begged and pleaded for a tiny kitten, I became her primary care-giver.
She curled up in my lap every morning while I read the newspaper. I didn’t invite her, but she climbed up anyway. I also fed her and scooped her litter box.
And so when I brought her to be put down, I thought it would be no big deal. “Do you want to hold her while we kill her?” They didn’t say that, of course, but that’s what I heard. “Do you want to hold her while we administer this lethal injection that will render her lifeless in a second or two?”
I held her.
And then I brought her home in an old blanket and buried her in the woods behind our home. What a lousy job. No one prepared me for how terrible I would feel for days afterward. How did I ever become attached to an animal who seemed to sleep for 23 hours a day?
Saying goodbye, I’ve found, is almost always a kind of death.
As excited as I am to begin this new chapter in my life, as excited as I am to realize this dream of living and working abroad, as sure as I am that God has prepared me for just this moment in my life, I can feel the toll that it’s taking on me.
Someone hugs me after church yesterday, has a really good grip on me, and whispers into my ear, “I’m going to miss you.” I say, “I’m going to miss you too.” And it’s true. I’m going to miss a lot of people. Some of them I’m going to miss acutely. How can you not miss a group of people to whom you’ve given just about every waking hour of the day for the last several years?
I looked at my congregation as I stood in the pulpit yesterday, and it was almost more than I could bear. I don’t know every person well, true, but I know a lot of them. I’ve officiated at weddings and funerals and baptisms for their family members. I’ve held their hands in hospital rooms. I’ve called late at night to ask if they’re okay. I’ve listened to them tell me things that they haven’t told a single other person in the whole world.
How do you say goodbye to people you have loved from the first time you met them?
I still have two more Sundays. I’m not sure how it will be possible to stand in front of them two more times. A week ago I tried humor which, I can report, did not go over very well. I tried to lighten the mood, but it was not a good decision.
A few people laughed, but my humor is usually received better than that. I realized that this is not a time for laughter.
Unfortunately, if I don’t laugh, I will cry. I will take a pocket full of tissues for my last day.