BEING IN THE PROCESS OF A GOODBYE (as I am right now) — in spite of the sadness and loss which many associate with that process — is actually not such a shabby place to be. Sure, it means leaving something(s) and people behind; but that is just one aspect of it — a minor aspect, if I may say so. To take that sole aspect as if it was the sum total of the experience is not only a misinterpretation of “Goodbye” but it is also an impoverishment of the experience, if seen in its broader context.
The origin of the word tells us a lot about the process. (I love etymological stuff. It’s always a great revealer!). The word is actually a very tight multiple contraction (presumably evolving over a number of centuries) of the medieval phrase “God be with ye”. You can see it broken down like this: Go(o)db(e)(with)ye. The bits that dropped away over time are in parentheses. So when we replenish what the wind of centuries has whittled away with colloquial erosion, we are actually being given a blessing with good wishes rather than a curse involving sadness and loss! 🙂
When people are parting, or one is leaving a situation or environment or district/region/country (or even life itself), there are many positive aspects to it. Firstly, it is positive in the sense of the fact that there is a beckoning adventure. When one is leaving, all eyes should be turned towards the future rather than being filled with sentimental nostalgia or hankering with sadness after the past. One may complain that it is much harder for the one being “left behind” to think in that way. But that simply means that the one being “left behind” has an unprecedented opportunity to rise above any self-centred thoughts and wish the other one well in all freedom and love. That is a deep and meaningful act which will have many rewarding aspects rippling through the world of the one living it. Life is constant change. Goodbye is simply one more manifestation of that. Secondly, goodbye is positive in the sense that there is no bitterness in the one who is able to say from the heart “God be with you” but only thankfulness for the object of one’s goodbye. When one is able to say “Goodbye” magnanimously, one is reaching a maturity which will reap huge benefits in one’s life.
There is a sense in which the heart of everything involves a goodbye. Time itself — that mysterious apparent consecutiveness of moments — means that each new moment is a goodbye to the previous one. But not just “goodbye”; for it is a hello and a goodbye in one. As I put it in the refrain to a song about time, entitled “The Seed of it All”:
“The present is the future in disguise.
The choices which we’ll make
are already in our eyes.
Liberated from the past,
we will find ourselves at last.
Every moment is a fond goodbye.”
So if one is saying goodbye to a situation which is now passing, one is really saying hello to a new situation which is arriving. It’s both a goodbye and a hello! If one is saying goodbye to a person, both of the people involved are also saying hello to newness. It’s both a goodbye and a hello! If one is saying goodbye to friends and relatives as one says goodbye to life while nearing the inevitable transformative moment of death, one is wishing divine goodness towards those one is “leaving behind” as well as saying “Hello” to whatever the new situation will be (dare I call that exciting? 🙂 ). It is also saying hello to a new situation for those being “left behind”, for there is no loss which is not replaced by something which is at least as rewarding or even better.
Therefore, as hard as it may seem, bereavement isn’t only about sadness and loss but is also about new beginnings for all parties (dare I say exciting new beginnings?). Unless we see goodbye in that perspective of corrective light, it will always fell us and imbue us with a sense of darkness which is destructive and fruitless.
So really, when one is saying “Goodbye”, one is actually wishing divine goodness towards the object of the goodbye. That, I believe, is encouraging and offsets any potentially negative connotations which “Goodbye” may hold in the human mind. When two people, from the bottom of their hearts in love and without fear or bitterness, say “Goodbye” to one another, they are actually placing each other in the care of a higher power. “God be with ye”. One is therefore saying “In my absence, may the higher powers bring you all the goodness which we enjoyed together and which I also wish for you in the future”. No one is being “left behind” and no one is really walking away. A moment is simply gracefully dissolving into the next as a part of a journey.
© Alan Morrison, 2016