I’ve never liked goodbyes. As I grow older it’s something I’m learning more and more about myself. Perhaps it’s the unknowing or maybe just simply the void of what’s to come, I’m not sure. I just really dread goodbyes.
I thought about this recently as I gave a squeeze to a college student headed back to school and then again that night after saying good night to my guy following a nice dinner. Goodbyes are hard.
As I write this, I can’t help but think how funny this seems. We say “goodbye,” “see you later” or something to that effect all the time so really what’s the big deal?
We all share different paths. If we’re lucky we are given opportunity to share them with amazing people. As we journey these paths we become faced with the good and the bad and in so doing who we are, how we live and what we choose might be altered.
So as I opened my laptop this past weekend to see what words were waiting in my brain for this week’s column, that’s what came to me.
Perhaps it’s the most recent passing of a friend or the two instances noted which brought those words to mind. Personally, I’ve lived through a lot of loss (from this physical world). Following the passing of the friend most recently I shared words on social media stating “death changes you.” I believe that.
I lost my grandmother to a heart attack when I was 10 years old. She was my best friend and the first death which impacted me greatly. Death is often hard to understand as an adult and even more so as a child. From then forward, each passing of someone I loved, challenged me to reevaluate how I was doing my life.
I lived through my fair share of tragic accidents, illnesses of classmates during my high school and college days. It made no sense, welcome to life.
To this very day, the loss of a life for someone I love or admired causes me to take a little “how are you living” inventory. It’s a funny thing really, yet I always find myself drifting there as I fondly recall the positive attributes of the person lost.
When I became a mother this intensified. This feeling of what will your legacy be? How do you wish to be remembered and will the life you’ve been given impact another in a positive way? I still feel that.
My daughter recently shared a quote with me about what it means to be a hero. As I listened, I shared with her my personal feelings on heroes and who they are. They’re not the people who are striving for such a title, I told her. They are the people that wake up and show up to do life as only they know how. In so doing, they affect and change the lives of another which impacts them forever. That’s a hero.
That’s what I thought about sitting through the memorial service of my friend Karla. A loving, giving, one of a kind woman who gave her all to her family, her friends and even strangers as she did life as only she knew how.
As I sat listening to her siblings speak of their sister, lost to cancer at age 45, a husband and three children surviving her, I thought of the great impact she made in such a short time. That’s what living is.
Following her service, we all shared memories and stories, wiping away tears as we did so. In this moment I was reminded of what we sometimes forget. No one spoke of the car she drove, the appearance of her home or any other material artifact. They spoke of the feelings, not the things.
If we sit and truly think about it, living is not defined by the things of the someday. Living is defined by how we wake each morning and the intentions we put into our own lives, which may ultimately affect others.
In short, we really don’t know when we’ll hear or say “goodbye” for the final time. What I do know, what this fragile life has taught me, is we only get one chance to journey through it.
None of us are perfect, because we are human. We are, however, able to recognize our shortcomings, be real with one another and move forward in a way which will hopefully have positive impact on another. The reality of course, is as we journey through we must say our fair share of “goodbyes,” and as we do, hopefully smile at the memories made and be grateful for the opportunity to make them. That is living defined and that is what we were each put here to do.
Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.