Goodbyes are important to us.
We want goodbyes to be perfect. Oh, we as humans have such great expectations about how goodbying should go. But if we look hard at the phenomena of goodbying or a good goodbye, the best goodbyes are not expressed in words, but in silence. In silence we can express a magnitude of meaning with a smile, a lingering look, the twinkle and spark as eyes meet and hearts touch. Good goodbyes are found in lots of hugs, tender kisses or the gift of tears, because goodbying is demonstrative. Love, true love, is heart-felt and tender.
At the time, we don’t always know we are goodbying and sometimes this causes great angst. We imagine or more likely, torture ourselves with ‘ if only’s’. If only I could have said this or that, or said this one last thing… as if mere words could convey the thoughts, feelings or the meaning behind every heart beat thrumming out its sweet melody of love.
Good goodbyes are not found in one lone event. Good goodbyes are a process. Goodbying takes time and we can’t expect that it can be rushed. True love grows over time as seed that is placed in the warm soil of the earth. The seed will stay dormant and unchanged, until it is nurtured and touched and then in the fullness of time, it sprouts. Love grows in same way. So, we must not expect that our goodbying can be treated as some casual event that can be turned on and off like a facet. Good goodbyes are lengthy and are proportionate to the love we have carried.
In my work, it is my honor and privilege to care for families whose babies die and to help them to learn to say goodbye. Saying hello and goodbye at the same time is not what we ever expect to happen and in our carnal minds seems grossly perverse. In the song, Held by Natalie Grant, she sings, “Two months is too little, they let him go. There was no sudden healing. To think that providence would take a child from his mother while she prays, is appalling”. And for most people who don’t know God personally, it seems appalling. However, God does not exist to harm and hurt man. On the contrary, God loved man so much that He became a man to bridge the gap between holy God and sinful humans. God is the God of rescue, not maleficence. In God’s eternal world, Heaven, there will no longer be sin and death and He promises us Himself, “there will be no more crying or sorrow in that city. No more shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days or an old man who does not fill out his days” (Isaiah 65: 19b-20a).
We remember…we remember the relationship and we give the gift of tears. We honor the lives of our loved by sharing tears sadness and joy. We shed tears of sadness for the searing pain of separation and yet, tears of bittersweet joy of the time we shared… yes, it is the blessing of time that so haunts. With babies, the time of blessing is but short and yet it is a lifetime in the remembering. Remembering how they moved in the womb, the schedule they kept, the passion and love expressed in every kick and every quick and fleeting butterfly movement. Oh, we felt each movement, though wrapped in loves warm cocoon and it was a life of excited and unbridled exuberance.
Grieving parents need to ‘parent’ to be able to heal, which may sound odd at first blush. How does one parent a child or a baby who has died?
Mommies and Daddies have many expectations for the life they had planned to share together. It heals to incorporate those expectations into parenting behaviors. The role of parenting is to protect and nurture and this can happen, despite death.
I know of one father who at finding out the sex of his unborn child, imagined himself nurturing his daughter with the final love act of a father, walking her down the aisle in marriage. He imagined they two, linked arm in arm on loves short journey towards separation. She dressed in crisp, white linen, lace and bows in honor of her husband to be and the union that was to take place. But his daughter died in the womb.
What happens to those dreams? Are they also destined to die and be buried too? When his daughter died, some felt this fathers parenting dream was shattered, completely destroyed, never to be experienced. However, he chose to keep his dream alive by redesigning it. This father chose to carry his daughter in loving arms embrace, down the aisle in death. Dressed in crisp, white linen, lace and bows, she was; and at the end of the aisle, he lovingly placed her in a cradle at God’s alter as the ultimate act of love by a father and a parent.
Good goodbyes are important. They take time, but are the forever in a lifetime.