Departures: The Gift in Good-Bye

“The reason it hurts so much to separate is because our souls are connected. Maybe they always have been and will be. Maybe we’ve lived a thousand lives before this one and in each of them we’ve found each other. And maybe each time, we’ve been forced apart for the same reasons. That means that this goodbye is both a goodbye for the past ten thousand years and a prelude to what will come.”
― Nicholas Sparks, The Notebook 

The most difficult departure I have ever faced was in 2009 when my husband was deployed to Afghanistan.  In general I do not handle goodbyes poorly, but this particular good-bye was so fraught with fear and anxiety that handling it well wasn’t even something I recognized how to do.  Since his return, every time he leaves home on a military assignment, the same fear returns, briefly, even though in his current situation it is completely unfounded.  After what we have endured, every good-bye is monumental.

His year-long absence taught me a great deal about the nature of separation, however.  What is it in good-bye that causes pain?  The ache of loss?  Anxiety about the unknown future?  Fear of change?  I spent a great deal of time examining these feelings after he left.  Once I had dug deep enough into my own well of worry and sadness, I discovered a treasure buried in good-bye.  I found the insight that every departure creates a circumstance ripe with new opportunity for a hello at some point in the future.  In an instance of geographical separation, this may be a reunion that brings you back together.  In the instance of a breakup, this may be the opening of a door that invites new love in.  In the instance of the death of a loved one, this may be a memory that causes you to smile in recollection of ways that person’s presence in your life enriched you…

Every departure requires us to let go, but if we sense deeply enough, there is always something to hold on to.  Intermingled in the tears of sorrow (and perhaps regret) that departures inspire, can be the fullness of joy and anticipation.  I found that letting go with grace is an act of faith, believing that there is a gift awaiting us on the other side of good-bye.


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