Thoughts on Saying Goodbye

We always try to avoid words of parting. It isn’t so bad if you expect to see the people again in the near future, or if you don’t have a very strong relationship with them, but otherwise, goodbyes are awful. Languages tend to skirt the issue, showing our discomfort with the (sometimes momentary) abandonment. “Shalom,” means “peace be with you.” Farewell, which evolved from “fare thee well,” expresses hopes for the other person’s prosperity. Rarely does anyone want to say, “This is it. I might never see you again- who knows- but I’m leaving now, so everything else is uncertain.” That sounds more like a breakup than what one would say to a friend.
We do not like to call attention to uncertainties, anyway, so we say God be with ye (goodbye) and wish them peace and prosperity. That is so much easier than admitting that we are unsure or saying what we’re truly feeling.
I am even trying to do that here: I have been writing about actually speaking the word goodbye, not delving into my own personal emotions. I hate saying goodbye. The word is not particularly detestable, but the process approaches the brink of emotional incapacity and overwhelming internal complexity. Often I find myself saying “Bye, goodbye, bye…” multiple times before actually departing. When people give a fond farewell and simply turn to leave, I gaze at them as they do so, observing. Some do not turn around, but keep walking, staring down the inevitable. I see nothing wrong with this approach, though it never ceases to shock me, due to the ways it differs from my well-worn leaving/being left habits.
If it were up to me, we would never have to break away from the group hugs to walk off. It is not the goodbye itself that holds the pain, I think; it’s the uncertainty of watching a dear friend head into a future where you might not always be able to hold them close.


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