Earlier this summer my friend, Pam, and I made a trip to Spain to visit her daughter who has been living and working in that country for almost a decade. Long before the end of our two week stay I had begun to dread the goodbyes. The sweetness of their mother daughter relationship is a thing of beauty and watching them relish in each other’s company made my heart churn at the anticipated departure.
On our last day Lindsey had driven us from the suburbs to the bustling outskirts of Madrid where her mom and I had booked a hotel near the airport to facilitate our early morning flight. After stashing our luggage in the hotel room, the three of us walked the streets of the surrounding neighborhood the rest of the afternoon, recounted the adventures we had enjoyed together and finally sat down at an outdoor café to share one last meal.
Long before the end of our two week stay I had begun to dread the goodbyes.
Since we knew neither her mother nor I would be able to make it through a prayer without becoming emotional, we asked Lindsey to say the blessing over our food. The prayer she offered was so sweet and sacred it was almost like a song. As she ended with “Amen” Lindsey opened her eyes to two mothers with tears rolling down their faces. Not only could WE not pray without crying, we couldn’t even listen to HER pray without crying!
Back at the hotel we made awkward attempts at conversation knowing we were all trying to avoid the inevitable. Finally Lindsey stood up to leave and began a series of hugs, one to be delivered to each family member at home and finally an especially long one for the mother she held in her arms.
When we could no longer hear Lindsey’s voice echoing “I love you” down the hall and to the elevator door, I suddenly had the urge to run and open the windows on the chance we could see her leaving the hotel. Calling her name, I spotted her a block away through an opening of leaves in the tree on the sidewalk where she walked. Throwing her arms open she gave us one final farewell. I grabbed my phone, zoomed in and clicked.
I love everything about this picture! Lindsey, with her contagious and jubilant smile, is saying, “I send all my love to all of my family and friends back home.” But what it also says to me is that she is keeping her heart wide open, ready to embrace those who come to her in the future. It is a farewell filled with the joy and hope of future possibilities, something I’ve termed an open armed farewell. I’m so glad I captured that moment.
I remember well taking our daughter to another state to begin college her freshman year. Having spent the day moving her into the dorm in the Texas heat, I was physically exhausted by the time we finished. Holding her especially tight as we said our goodbyes, I was determined not to make a spectacle with a weepy display of emotions.
It is a farewell filled with the joy and hope of future possibilities, something I’ve termed an open armed farewell.
I was fine until, pulling out of the parking lot, I spotted her sitting on her bed looking out the window of her fourth floor room, all alone. Her roommate had left to spend one last night with her family at their hotel and other than her, there was only one other student our daughter knew on the entire campus. It sounds silly but I felt like I was abandoning her.
Tears filled my eyes as I drove off campus and back to my hotel. I was too tired and too sad to eat so my plan was to grab something from the vending machine, take a quick shower, throw myself on the bed and cry for an undetermined amount of time.
I felt like I had been in labor all day to birth this child into her new life but leaving her at what looked much like a hospital and cutting the emotional umbilical cord had left me weak and fragile. I heaved a huge sigh, plopped on the bed and pulled the hotel’s copy of the Gideon’s Bible from the nightstand.
Letting it fall open at random, my eyes fell on these words, “This day is sacred to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep. Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength”. Wow! That scripture was Nehemiah 8:9 and has been underscored with a star beside it in my Bible ever since.
When Jesus was preparing to say his goodbyes he softened the pain with a promise, recorded in John 16:7, “Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.” That Comforter, The Holy Spirit, is the one who dried my eyes and soothed my sorrow at leaving my only daughter behind.
Also known as the Counselor, The Holy Spirit spoke to me in the quiet aloneness of my hotel room that night and reminded me that just as the day of dedication of our daughter to the Lord as an infant had been a sacred day, this day too was sacred to Him. For this was the day I was giving her not just to Him but to the world at large. To His plan and possibilities for her life.
The Holy Spirit, is the one who dried my eyes and soothed my sorrow at leaving my only daughter behind.
Thankfully that night because of the Holy Spirit’s help I was able to relax with peace into an open armed farewell. One that looked forward with anticipation to things to come. I was saying goodbye to a wonderful 18 years and hello to some grand experiences ahead.
As my 89-year-old mother lay dying, all 25 of her children, grandchildren, respective spouses and great grandchildren had gathered around her to say their farewells. At one time during those last few days, each one of us separately and individually were given a chance for a private goodbye. I doubt there was one of us who, after thanking her for the beautiful life she had given us here, didn’t encourage her to open her arms to her new life ahead. She had as much waiting for her there as she had in the life she was leaving behind.
In Act 2, Scene 2 of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet we find the famous quote “Parting is such sweet sorrow, That I shall say good night till it be morrow.” Juliet, a love struck maiden, was already anticipating the next meeting with her lover even as she bid him farewell.
I want my goodbyes to all be that way. Even in death I want my arms to be open anticipating things to come, reunions to enjoy and realities of the next life to be experienced in full. I hope for an open armed farewell so I can truly say, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (! Corinthians 15:55) For in that moment I will not only be embracing what has been but I will be embracing all that is yet to be.