My Mother-in-law doesn’t like long goodbyes. She wants them short and sweet–no sense in prolonging the pain. She’s not too abrupt, mind you, but she won’t drag them out either. Perhaps you have a similar philosophy about removing Band-aids or entering pools.
Some goodbyes are relatively painless. My family doesn’t cry when I leave for work in the morning. They trust I will be home for lunch in a few hours.
Other goodbyes, like graduations, are more difficult–because we are unsure of when we will be reunited.
Final goodbyes are excruciating–and are great tests–perhaps the greatest tests we face in this life.
C.S. Lewis wrote a touching scene in Perelandra that expresses the tenderness and longing that these moments represent. The hero, Ransom, is preparing to leave his home. He doesn’t know when or if he’ll be back. He’s asked his friend to be his executor–which increases their intimacy, and the poignancy of their parting.
The scene, though fictitious, is helpful to me, because I think of it as a rehearsal. How will I say goodbye? How will we say goodbye? Will we face our goodbyes squarely with robust Christian hope? A belligerent hope that insists that our final goodbyes with Christian loved ones aren’t absolute? Can we grieve and hope? Who are our captains in showing us how to do this with valor? Are we learning from them?
“We [planned] together and for a long time we talked about those matters which one usually discusses with relatives and not with friends. I got to know a lot more about Ransom than I had known before, and from the number of odd people whom he recommended to my care, ‘If ever I happened to be able to do anything,’ I came to realise the extent and intimacy of his charities. With every sentence the shadow of approaching separation and a kind of graveyard of gloom began to settle more emphatically upon us. I found myself noticing and loving all sorts of little mannerisms and expressions in him such as we notice always in a woman we love, but notice in a man only as the last hours of his leave run out or the date of the probably fatal operation draws near. I felt our nature’s incurable incredulity; and could hardly believe that what was now so close, so tangible and (in a sense) so much at my command, would in a few hours be wholly inaccessible, an image–soon, even an elusive image–in my memory. And finally a sort of shyness fell between us because we each knew what the other was feeling. It had got very cold. ‘We must be going soon,’ said Ransom.”C.S. Lewis, Perelandra, 28-29.