Goodbye For Now

Goodbyes hurt. I’ve never been good at them. I’m bad at letting go, whether it’s just for a short period of time, or potentially for the rest of life this side of Heaven. I’m sure we all would choose to avoid painful goodbyes if we could, but, unfortunately, they’re a part of the world we live in.

I received news today that a good friend of mine lost her mom overnight. She had been experiencing health struggles for years now, and her battle had escalated to a breaking point recently, landing her in hospice care early last week.

I had the privilege of walking with this friend through the different stages of her mom’s various health ups and downs over the years, along with the other wonderful women who were our roommates in college. I am so grateful for the support we’ve been able to provide for her and for one another through this difficult time. It has shown us just how strong our prayers and encouraging words can be across the great distances that currently separate us. We’ve become a community, divided as we are in different cities and states, rallying together to lift this dear family up in prayer, as we have done with other things that have come up in all of our lives.

This friend’s precious, kind, loving mother is no longer here with us, but her memory and love will continue with those who knew her, and I count myself blessed to be included with them. While we knew the end of her time with her family and friends was drawing to an end, saying goodbye is certainly not easy. It’s natural to want to hold on, to fight to keep what you thought was yours forever. Heaven’s gain is our loss, but as I sit here grieving for the ones she left behind, I rejoice knowing that she is no longer in pain.

I want so desperately to be able to do something to alleviate my friend’s pain, to say something poignant about the passing of such a wonderful woman from this world to the next, to lift my spirits and those of her friends and family. But I am not finding it in my power to do so. Some things just can’t be understood this side of Heaven. Some pain can’t be alleviated with mere words, certainly not with cliche quips or empty sayings. I’m learning in this moment of deep pain that being willing to just be present in the midst of the grief is far more important than finding the right words to say.

The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing… not healing, not curing… that is a friend who cares.

Henri Nouwen

Through the challenges my friend’s family has gone through over the last few years, and the obstacles the rest of us have faced, we have come together as a family, pointing one another back to God, reminding ourselves and each other of the truth that sometimes is hidden in the lies of the world. And while the circumstances that have brought us closer during this were certainly not ones I would wish on anybody, I am grateful for the sisterly bond it forged between us as we lived life together. I thank God for these wonderful women, for their willingness to be vulnerable, sharing in the messiness of life, taking time out of their busy lives to stay connected, share both the good and the bad things in their lives, and continually pray for one another. While we are all hurting from this loss, we take comfort in knowing that it’s only a goodbye for now, until we meet again in the presence of our God, who will wipe away all the tears we have shed.

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