Occasionally a thought will materialize before you that, although never evident before, becomes as clear as life itself. It’s as if you have been sitting in bed in complete darkness when a flash of lightning illuminates a stranger standing at the foot of your bed.
Sometimes, it’s that disturbing, too.
Such is the case with the events of this week. In the span of nine days, three much beloved people disappear from my life for an indefinite period of time. The phrase “indefinite period” is the cushion I use to soften the blow of the possibility of that becoming a permanent state.
There is no way to avoid the fact that life is a series of hello’s and goodbye’s. From the perspective of this mortal life, in the end, goodbye wins.*
In days of olde, when someone departed for a distant location, it was out of necessity forever. You said goodbye and that was that. The possibility of returning from an extended relocation, whether across the country or across the sea, was as out of the question as returning from the dead. And the grief could be just as profound because every goodbye is a little death.
There are those who would attempt to mollify the despair of such a loss with the consolation of today’s technology. Nothing exposes the inadequacies of digital companionship more thoroughly than attempting to maintain a relationship at a distance for an extended time. It fails there for the same reason that it fails for families and friends whose propinquity is not an issue. No amount of tweeting, Skyping, Facebooking, emailing, Instagramming, Pinteresting, Googling, or <fill-in-the-technology-flavor-of-the-month>ing can bridge the gap between separated loved ones.
These tools provide a modicum of relief when they are absolutely necessary – family members deployed overseas, academic absences, and the like – but they are poor substitutes for true closeness. What a shame that we rely on them even when personal contact is possible.
I don’t know what I’m getting at here, except to say that we must somehow come to grips with the goodbye’s that bracket our hello’s. It’s possible that this post is part of my coping mechanism. Writing is an effective way of providing a soft(er) landing for these falls from my precarious perch on the precipice of a peaceful existence.
* According to the Christian Gospel, to which I am an adherent, hello wins for those who follow Jesus Christ through His life, death (goodbye), and resurrection (hello). My experience in this life and hope for the next compel me to believe and live this Good News.