Friday, June 17, 2011

How to Handle Goodbyes with Grace?

Did you know that the average American moves 11.7 times during his life?

 In today’s mobile society, farewells are part of everyday life, especially during the summer when school is out.  Last week I wrote about making new friends, but you probably spend as much time and energy saying goodbye to old friends as you do to making new ones.

If you’re serving overseas, goodbye is part and parcel of your calling.  You say goodbye to your family when you move overseas.  You say goodbye to national friends when you go home on furlough.  You say goodbye to fellow workers who return to their home countries. 

Two farewells in particular stand out in my mind.  Two years ago when we left Turkey for a furlough, my Turkish sister cried a river and hugged me tight at the airport. Last spring when we left Texas in order to return here, my sister-in-law cried and my nieces and nephew huddled around us while we said goodbye.

Last Thursday we gave a going away party. Karl and Ellen, some of our closest friends, are moving back to Sweden after 9 years.  We came to Turkey the same year, and our children have grown up together.  We’ve lived near each other and have worked together.  They’ve added laughter and joy to our lives, so although we’re happy for them, their leaving represents loss for us.

Frankly, I don’t like good-byes, but I might as well learn to live with them, because whether I like them or not, they’re something I have to go through!  I might as well weather them with grace. Here are a few thoughts that encourage me.

Use Goodbyes as a time for reflection

I try to focus on the positive and give thanks for beautiful friendships God has brought into my life.  It’s a gift from God to have people I love so much that it hurts to say goodbye.  What would be sad would be to have no one you care about enough to not want to say goodbye to.

Letting go of friends also renews my eternal perspective on life.  Other friends may come and go, but Jesus continues to be my closest, most faithful friend, the only one who will never move away. 

Allow yourself to grieve, but keep looking ahead

At our going away party for Karl and Ellen, one of our Turkish brothers wept openly as we prayed for them.  This tender scene touched me deeply, and I have shed many a tear as I’ve thought of them leaving. Giving myself permission to grieve ultimately helps me to move on, embrace the future, and look ahead to new relationships God has for me.

Look forward to keeping in touch

Goodbye doesn’t have to be the end of the road. Of course a dilemma of modern life is that even if we have 600 Facebook friends, we can’t maintain every relationship we’ve ever had at the same level, but we instinctively know which people we really want to continue investing in. It takes effort, but keeping in touch through e-mail, occasional phone calls, or yearly letters adds richness, joy and continuity to our ever mobile, changing lives. My husband and I have shared many special moments with old friends we look up when we travel.

So when we take Karl and Ellen to the airport next week, I hope to smile and focus on thanking God for such special friends! Have you said goodbye to anyone recently?


Jamie Jo said...

Well said! I LOVE this post. Thank you for the reminder.

Linda said...

You've written with a combination of loving grace and wisdom, and you've captured the goodbyes of missionary life so well. It brought back some sad goodbye memories, but just today I devoured an "old" friend's pictures on Facebook and received their prayer letter in the mail. Those precious friendships continue even after we've left the mission field.

Thanks for the blessing of YOU today!


OliveTree said...

Thanks Jamie Jo and Linda. I know both of you have lived through and understand exactly what I'm talking about.

John K. said...

The picture of all of you together is very nice.

Anonymous said...

Forwarded this to a friend. Love it. thanks!

Karin said...

My heart is many goodbyes the last bit too. Thank you for this post. A good reminder, real but sensitive and so you. I often thank God for your friendship.

OliveTree said...

Thanks Karin, I thank God for you too. We were awfully sad around me yesterday after you left. Feeling better today, trying to smile at the future.