I have a memory-picture of that forlorn young girl waving to her beloved grandparents as they stood at the door of their farmhouse in Kansas. I wondered what she thought in that year of 1939 while saying goodbye. Did she understand the depth of the pathos of a good bye? Probably not. To her it was an exercise at the end of a time of rejoicing in being with her grandparents on the farm and looking forward to the next time.
Fast forward a life time, and the girl grew into a woman who had grown familiar with the pang and the-lump-in-the-throat of goodbyes. The girl, at twelve, heard the screams of her Grosmom Siemens as she drew her last breath. At sixteen, she bid her best friend goodbye and all she had known when the family moved to another town. At eighteen this girl went to college a scant 75 miles away, and it might as well have been 7,500 miles away for the depth of homesickness that washed like crashing waves over her for six weeks. When the waves receded, she knew that this pain would not ever be as deep again. Little did she know the goodbyes that would come when her Kansas grandparents died, when her first born’s twin brother died at birth. That pain was replaced with the realization that little Donnie was being cared for by God, and one day we would be re-united again. And the pain becomes bitter sweet and endurable as she learned to trust God.
As our children left home one by one and the goodbyes became more and more often, each one left their mark with smiling tears of parents. We sent each one away with a time of prayer and as our daughter-in-law taught us – ‘a family hug’. Then their Dad and I would hold hands and wave good bye to our children – praying in our hearts for God to watch over our blessed children. And as time passed, grand children and great grandchildren.
The goodbye to Dad as he lay on the hospital bed suffering from at least 10 heart attacks was tinged with victory when Dad smiled as he entered into Heaven’s Gates. When it was Mom’s turn to go, I sat with her and read from her favorite Psalms as she passed from this earth to Heaven.
Psalm 37:5-7 – Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun. Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.
Someone said, “What is good about goodbyes?” Without goodbyes, there would never be a “Hello!” and the joy of greeting on earth, and in Heaven. Without goodbyes we would never know what we have lost. Without goodbyes we would never realize the worth of our friends, church family and loved ones.
I wonder whether Adam and Eve as they were expelled from the Garden of Eden cried. I am sure they were saying goodbye to what once was with tears and regret. Their lives were changed forever…and ours. Did they even have a word for goodbye then? When I read the Old Testament I am astonished at the number of farewells that God’s people endured in faith or in disobedience.
As we bid our minister farewell, after nineteen years, last Sunday, August 12th. There were many tears as we all remembered with love our relationship of joy with a man who exemplified God’s love, forgiveness and hope in Christ Jesus. As time continues we know we cannot stay in this state of sorrow, but listened to God’s words as Jack read from Philippians 2:2….”then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.” That oneness and like-mindedness comes from being like Jesus and knowing His Word.
Ephesians 22:23-24 – Good-bye, friends. Love mixed with faith be yours from God the Father and from the Master, Jesus Christ. Pure grace and nothing but grace be with all who love our Master, Jesus Christ. (The Message)
II Timothy 2:3-4 – Every time I say your name in prayer—which is practically all the time—I thank God for you, the God I worship with my whole life in the tradition of my ancestors. I miss you a lot, especially when I remember that last tearful good-bye, and I look forward to a joy-packed reunion. (The Message)
We do not know what lies ahead in this world, but we do have confidence in the One who guides our footsteps. God knows the heartache of goodbye, for He sent His Son into the world to die on the cross for us. He did so that we might hear the words from Matthew 25, the parable of The Bags of Gold as we cross the last threshold of pain…..
His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
The older we become the more ready we are to hear these words. The world no longer has an allure for us. Each goodbye is simply another step to the glories of Heaven. We look ahead to a forever-place of no goodbyes with our Lord.