The original version of this article was published on my ministry blog, Gilmores for His Glory, on August 8, 2012.
We have said a lot of goodbyes in our lifetime. Sometimes it feels like too many for my heart to bear. This is one of the sacrifices of building a life in two different countries and befriending people from around the world.
I still remember our first full summer in Haiti. My girls were so little. There hearts were so fragile. We kissed and cried in the Fresno airport when we said goodbye to grandparents and dear friends. Then we began our long journey to our new home in Haiti.
That summer my girls bonded with new Haitian friends and many Americans too. The kids at the orphanage next to our mission house became like siblings to them. They spent long afternoons jumping rope, eating mangoes and playing soccer. Each week a new American team would come to serve, and each Saturday we would stand in the driveway and send them off with hugs.
After they would leave, the girls and I would retreat to the bedroom. My mama instinct was to hold it together, but it wasn’t always easy. More often I would gather my little birds in my arms and we would cry together. We would lean into the loss.
Some of our closest friends live in Germany, the Philippines, Haiti, Florida and Maryland. We have cousins in Spain, Texas, Michigan, Ohio, South Carolina and Washington. We visit and this necessitates goodbyes.
I used to wonder if all these goodbyes were too hard for my babies’ hearts, too hard for my heart. I strategized about ways to shield them from the sadness, the longing, and the wondering when we would meet again.
And I found myself asking God some hard questions:
Why must we always say goodbye?
Why risk loving someone deeply when parting will be inevitable?
Since that first hard summer in Haiti, my girls and I have endured many goodbyes, including perhaps the ultimate goodbye. On September 9, 2014, we stood at the bed beside my beloved husband and kissed him goodbye before he graduated to Heaven. It’s a goodbye that still sears my heart, that still makes me ache to my very core.
In this deep longing, I have dug up my answer about goodbyes.
I could draw back. I could avoid goodbyes altogether. I could keep to myself, shelter my kids from friends and family relationships. I could numb out. I could stay put, never travel, never follow my dreams.
I could turn my back on my calling.
I could keep my relationships surface so it doesn’t hurt so badly when people go away.
But is that what I really want for my life? Is that the mission? Are those the values I want to teach my kids?
Eventually, I realized that the sweet sorrow of goodbye is meaningful. I know the deepest love because I’ve risked that pain. My girls are learning to love well. Our time with people now is quality. And that is a risk worth taking.
I know Moise and Nella and Angeline and Dartiquenov and Cindy and Carla and Marcy and Jeremy deeply because I’ve said yes to the goodbyes. My kids love Gary and Rose Katia and Amanda and Esther and Corban and Hannah and Giovanni and Sophie because we’ve embraced goodbyes.
I can relate to the emotion-filled words of Paul in his letter to Timothy: “I miss you a lot, especially when I remember that last tearful good-bye, and I look forward to a joy-packed reunion.” (2 Timothy 1:3-4 , The Message).
When life is full of goodbyes, life is so much richer.
Now we linger over our goodbyes. They are important to us. We’ve made them into see-you-soons and meet-you-theres.
We’ve promised texts and letters and blogs and photos and Facetime dates. And when we promise, we make that extra effort follow through.
My family has learned the language of goodbye. It’s a heart language. At the close of the summer, my heart is tired, but my heart is full.
We will keep traveling, and we will keep loving, and we will keep releasing our people gently into the Father’s arms for safe keeping.
Who have you said goodbye to this summer? How do you approach this sacred releasing of people? We would love to hear from you in the comments!