Saying Goodbye (reposted from October 2013)

saying goodbye

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.

About Doug

I have been a writer ever since fifth grade when I won second prize in a “prose and poetry” contest. I am also a Presbyterian pastor, and for several years toward the end of my career I lived and worked in Zürich, Switzerland. I am now retired and live just north of Holland, Michigan, along the lake.

6 Responses to Saying Goodbye (reposted from October 2013)

  1. Stephan uus Oetwil am See January 9, 2018 at 6:21 am #

    Dear Doug – yes, not easy, for all of us in similar situations. A new day means another-one gone. With no chance to get back to it. BUT: you will start a new chapter in life: freed of “must’s”, adding new “may’s” (which will sometimes turn into must’s, different ones, later). Enjoy these last days and hours between the mountains, along the lake and take some pics of daily views along your way to work and back. The commuter train, the trams, the hikes, the houses, the views over lake and into mountains. I have vivid memories exactly because of those pictures from the many places we had lived which let me dream back into other times… Strength and optimism for the last bits here in Zurich area 🙂

  2. Melanie January 9, 2018 at 8:42 am #

    We wish you well! It was always great hearing your messages while we lived in Zurich. Your ability to genuinely speak to a congregation as if you know each person is God-given.
    Best regards!
    The Mangascles

  3. Jeff Edwards January 9, 2018 at 12:27 pm #

    See you in Michigan !

  4. Bruce Fogerty January 9, 2018 at 1:24 pm #

    Good luck with your new life.

  5. Jamie January 22, 2018 at 10:13 am #

    Dear Doug,

    I only came across your blog today by accident, let alone realise you even had one! Shame I only discovered it today.

    What a great read and an insight to your thoughts and emotions. I hear you loud and clear, and my heart and prayers go out to you.

    After reading the blog, I felt compelled to take a moment (or two) to say that…(coz just a few lines are never enough in such cases personally…)

    – Although I wasn’t able to attend the mentioned service due to being overseas, I am sure your jokes were funny. I get your jokes and always find them funny, even though I do agree that I find myself to be the only one laughing at times. I just don’t get how some don’t get it. Is this where I go ‘great minds..?’ Ummm…

    – You will be greatly missed and you will not be forgotten. As you know, I am relatively new to IPC and even as a newbie, I can see the positive influences you’ve had on the congregation.
    It is indeed sad that you are moving on. However, who are we to hold back God’s calling?
    I am sure others would agree with me that this is the reason why we are fighting back our tears and some are unable to bring themselves up to say so. So…just thought to remind you in case you forget now and then that there are many at IPC who are grateful for God’s providence and grace for bringing you into their lives one way or the other, and will cherish and reminisce with a smile the times shared for many years to come.

    – Thank you for your love for our Lord and service. I am not sure I have mentioned this before but it was your sermon podcast that had me decide on IPC as my home church in Zurich even before I had arrived. So, in short, thank you for loving our Dear Father, aka Big-G above, his Word and serving on his behalf. It is the greatest encouragement any fellow Christian can receive.

    I’ll stop here before I fill up your Cloud Storage and affect your future blog posts. Or however technology goes these days.

    Please do keep in touch wherever God takes you next.

    Safe travels and many God’s blessings more than the number of stars an eye can count to you and your family.

    See you in his Kingdom if not before,


  6. Arnold and Ruth Benz January 29, 2018 at 8:56 am #

    Thanks to you, Doug, we discovered IPC in the middle of our town. You have such a different way to preach and an appealling humor. It reached many hearts and our’s as well.

    Come again! The Camino also crosses through here.
    Thank you for your work in Switzerland; some will last.

    We will remember you and remain with best wishes,

    Arnold Benz and Ruth Wiesenberg

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