One of the most difficult parts of living is saying good-bye to a dying friend. As we grow older, we’ve already experienced death in the loss of a loved one, but our friends – people our age – people who have been around as long as we have – some of them have passed on. I attended my fiftieth year high school class reunion several months ago, where I witnessed first-hand the collective loss of too many classmates. The reading of their names to an audience of several hundred people, including former teachers, was profound. Each name was read aloud, and a small vignette of each life was eloquently presented, not only honoring their lives but taking the rest of us down memory lane to a time when we were young and indestructible and had not a care in the world, indeed to the best times of our lives. At that reunion, we said our final good-byes.
Recently I visited with a friend whose step-father was dying from complications brought on by Alzheimer’s. The family had gathered in a beautiful room provided by Hospice, sadly, to say good-bye. Even though this beautiful man who suffered through the ravages of Alzheimer’s had long ago left this world in mind, his body had stayed with us, and we said good-bye to the total person whom we had known and loved so dearly. Trying to find the right words is impossible because there are no right words at that time. So you do the best that you can.
I remember as a teenager in love, the lingering good-nights on the doorstep of her parent’s home, where we agreed not to say good-bye because it was too final. How many times have we heard, “Never say good-bye because it’s too final.” People have said good-bye and died unexpectedly the next day, or had to say good-bye because they would never see that person again. Extreme? Remember how Humphrey Bogart says good-bye to Ilsa in the movie Casablanca? Now that was a good-bye!
The words not much, but the scene, spectacular, the heavy fog surrounding the plane at night, two people in love saying a final farewell, their expressions, their body language said the greatest goodbye ever. Sometimes Hollywood gets it right, and the lesson here is, in the end we are here for each other and guess what there really are no goodbyes.