Changing the Way I View Good-bye

“Good-bye!”

I’ve never really liked that word, though I’ve written quite a bit about it. I’ve written about how we should teach our kids to say it, how important it is, a great tool to use to go through it, and how I just feel that it stinks. I mean it sounds so final and ending. When I moved to China I learned the word for Good-bye (再見/zaijian) really meant “see ya later!” ~ my translation, but fairly accurate as it has a meaning of seeing the person again. I remember grabbing that meaning soon after my arrival. It was the bandage to my bleeding heart just after having left my family. The hope that I’d see them in a few years, that the good-bye was not final.

But, what if something happened to one of them and it was my final Good-bye?

The thought had plagued my mind at various times that were usually not convenient – like staff meetings or in the middle of the night when I should be sleeping. This thought turned into a fear. The definition bandage was not enough. I needed something stronger. Out of my comfort zone, away from dear friends and family who had always wrapped up my fears with encouraging words and support, I clung to God’s Word. Hebrews 11:13-16 spoke loud and clear to me.

“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country – a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.”

(Heb 11:13-16, NIV)

Note that this passage is in the middle of the “Great People of Faith” list in Hebrews. Namely, Abraham came to mind. He left his home and family and just started out on a journey that he had no idea where he was going or when the traveling would end. Yet, he went in faith. I am no Abraham, but his example encouraged me to stay where God had placed me.

My fear became reality.

Death eventually did come. My grandfather. My grandmother. My own father. Each was difficult. There was grief. A few days before she died I talked on the phone with Grandma, the tomboy of a grandmother whose farm had been my second home. We both knew it was coming, and yet she encouraged me to keep doing what I was doing. We talked like we’d see each other again. I grieved, but understood and knew that we would see each other…one day.

A few years later, the phone call came that my dad was on his deathbed. He had battled leukemia for many years, and it had began to attack his body again. His immune system was shot – pneumonia snuck in. My siblings shared with me on the phone that he was peaceful those final hours. My mind raced to the last time I had seen him just five months earlier. I remembered as I hugged and told him good-bye wondering if it would be my last. As I hung up the phone I realized that my dad knew it would be. I remembered the look in his eyes as it seemed he wanted to tell me something, but being a man of few words he patted my back and choked out “I love you.”

As the years pass I know I’ll experience more deaths. We are mortal. It is part of life. Through these years of moves and watching countless others move out of my life, the Chinese meaning of Good-bye has changed from a bandage to more of a reminder of the passage above. Taipei is not my home; nowhere on this planet is really my home. I’m just a traveler passing through this life until the Lord decides to take me to my real home. A place where there is no more tears, no more pain, no more Good-byes!

Until then, I feel that I must live the life that God has asked me to live – not for myself, but for Him who through his death and resurrection made the harshest of good-byes of this earth just a “see ya later!” I know there will still be grief, but in the midst of that grief there is hope – that sure knowledge of knowing what will come. And for that I’m forever grateful for his saving grace.

This post was inspired by The Groove and is part of a link-up with Velvet Ashes. Thanks for letting me share a bit of my heart today. Please feel free to comment below or to contact me via email.

 

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Make Sure To Say Good-bye

It’s the end of the school year, which means traveling with family, moving to a new place, or hanging out at home. Most parents and teachers of third culture kids know that they need to make sure there are opportunities for students to say good-byes properly. They have “Good-bye Parties” for their children; they take photos of their favorite places, and/or they have dinners with special people before they leave.

Alloway Kirk and Burial Place of Burns's Family

Photo by The Commons at flickr.com

Saying “Good-bye” well is something we should have our children do at the end of every school year or long vacation no matter if we are leaving or not.

Just last week I put in a music DVD for Jie Jie that we’ve had for over ten years now (Have DVDs truly been around that long now?). She requests it once in awhile, and on this particular morning I sat and watched her dance along with it. A song came on, this song in particular, and my heart wrenched.

I was flooded with memories from 10 years ago.

It was the last week of our time in Shenyang, China. Due to SARS, the school had ended a week earlier. My husband was the principal at the time, so we were making our last rounds of dinners and lunches with various people. This day we happened to be eating fish head soup with a Korean family when my husband got the phone call. An elementary student had gotten pinned down by a large iron gate just outside his home. He was dead.

In a haze of confusion and pain, a memorial service was arranged. The students who were still around all showed up, along with teachers and friends of the parents. “With All of My Heart” by Jana Alayra was one of the songs that was played that day. It had been one of his favorites.

Many of his classmates were not there that day. They had already traveled back to their passport country. *

We can’t know for sure that when school resumes in the fall, that your child’s classmates will all be there. So, if you have the chance help your young children say “Good-bye” well this year. Maybe it it’s just a handshake and the words spoken or maybe you go all out and have an end of the year party where the kids say something nice about each other. Either way, from this experience, I learned the importance of saying “Good-bye” every time.

*The school had another Memorial Service in fall for all the students, along with counselors to help them deal with such a huge loss.

Your Turn: What do you do to help your child/student say “Good-bye” at the end of the school year? Please comment below.

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