When I was a child I never thought much about the words “goodbye” and “hello.” They were just words and the thought never occurred to me that saying “goodbye” to someone could actually hurt. I just accepted that I would see that person again and didn’t place much meaning in such words. As I grew up, though, my thoughts changed.
For instance, the very first “goodbye” that really emotionally got to me was in 1974. I had been tapped to go with a team of five American and one Chinese to Hong Kong to do some summer mission work. In preparations for the journey, I went to say “goodbye” to my Great-Grandmother. When it was time to leave her home she hugged me tightly and began to cry. I don’t think I had ever seen her cry before and I had spent much time with her in my growing-up years. My parents were with me and they were as perplexed as I was to see her tears as she hugged me so tightly. I asked her what was wrong and she told me that she feared she would never see me again. Now that really tore a hole in my heart! I can thankfully report that I did see her and spent several more years with her on this earth, but her gut-wrenching “goodbye” really changed me.
I never dreamed when I was first married and saying “hello” to my new family that I would have to say “goodbye” to them one day. It seemed like it took a lifetime just to get to know them and to understand the cultural difference between Chinese thinking and American thinking. Thirty-five years of knowing someone is a long time and saying “goodbye” is not easy. I had hoped that we would remain friends after my divorce. I had hoped that we would stay in close contact more, especially since now there is easier access through technology. Only one member of my ex-husband’s family really wanted to stay in contact with me. She told me that she was my sister-in-Christ and that we had been friends for most of her life. She was something like twelve when I married into her family. I was thankful for her friendship then and we are still friends today although we don’t speak as often as we once did. I am still friends with most of my ex-in-laws on social media sites, but we seldom communicate with one another. Divorce changes so many things including the structure of families.
I have said “goodbye” to so many in my lifetime. As a military wife it seemed that I would just make some good friends and boom! Someone moved, either we were being stationed somewhere else or my friends would be stationed somewhere else. One thing I cling to is the fact that if my friends are Christians I will see them again; perhaps not in this lifetime but none-the-less I will see them again. I look forward to catching up on their lives when we get to heaven. If my friends are not Christians I pray for them that God will be gracious and continue to give them opportunities to know Him.
“Goodbye” is never easy. Sometimes we think we are just saying “See you later….” but then we may never see that person again on this earth. I have said “goodbye” to my brother, my sister, my Dad and my Mom as well as grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins. I know that I will be spending eternity with most of them though. Even though this earthly “goodbye” was tough, I think because I believe that I will see them again I don’t hurt as deeply as I might otherwise. Other times saying “goodbye” is something that we know is forever like when we go to a funeral of a friend who is not a Christian. I always find it especially sad in these particular situations because I know we will be separated for all of eternity.
I guess when all is said and done; “goodbye” is not one of my favorite words. I prefer so much more the word “hello.” I think that is why I love the stories in the Bible. They are more than just stories; they are records of real people’s lives and someday I will get to say “hello” to them. I want to get to know them better and learn more about them as a person. For instance I want to know how Moses felt when he returned to Egypt after so many years of self-imposed exile. I can’t wait to find out what happened to Queen Esther after she saved her people. Did she remain the King’s favorite or did he let her go and did she live the rest of her life in exile? I want to know what Paul’s thorn was that was in his side, what medical conditions was it a metaphor of? I have certainly been able to identify with Paul’s thorn as I have a few of my own to contend with. And what happened to the widow with the mite who Jesus pointed out to the disciples while they were at the Synagogue? Did she prosper after giving God her all, or did she just feel contended in her giving and live out the rest of her days in poverty? I can’t wait until heaven so I can say “hello” to my favorite Bible characters.
I am so thankful that Jesus didn’t stay dead….His “goodbye” was so gut-wrenching to read and think about, but oh how wonderful His “hello” when He became the first victor over death. Yes, heaven is going to be a pretty super place to meet and greet people and the best part? I will never have to say “goodbye” again.
Until next time…..Katherine