I hate goodbyes as much as the next person.
I hate goodbyes left unsaid more.
Many of us have come to believe that if we just don't say goodbye, we don't have to feel the pain of leaving. I remember thinking this when I was in college. I taught a Sunday school class of 3rd & 4th grade girls at my church. I moved from the church I grew up in to a church of my adult choosing, but I didn't want to say goodbye to these little girls I loved so much. So I didn't. It showed my 20 year old immaturity and is a decision I've regretted over the years. I learned that goodbyes are painful and necessary. It is part of releasing sorrow for a relationship that must part, whether long term or for a few days.
I reflect on this today with a bit more than a month left in Moldova. I have friends that regularly express their grief that we are leaving. They love me and know I love them. But the other day a friend looked at me and said words in Romanian that are the equivalent to "I will never see you again. Have a good life." Then she turned and walked away. I wasn't sure I had understood correctly. Surely she didn't just say that and walk away. Elissa stood next to me, turned and asked, "Did she really just say what I thought she said?" We were both shocked. Yes, I had understood correctly, and it left me no chance to hug her.
No chance to tell her again how much she has meant to me.
No chance to close that chapter.
She is gone. I found out she had obtained a visa to America. She didn't want to say goodbye. She leaves in a few days.
This has happened several times in Moldova. My language teacher told me she was going to visit her son but had an emigrant visa. The girls' piano teacher finished a lesson and declared, "I won't return. I'm going to America in two days."
These repeated times of "Relationship Over I'm Leaving" kill me. I can't do that anymore. I have to acknowledge and grieve the place I am leaving--the place I've called home longer than any other place in my life.
I'm doing my best to say goodbye to my friends in Moldova. I want to eat dinners and spend time with those I love here. I'm letting people know what they mean to me and how grateful I am for their friendship and grace toward me.
I'm saying goodbye to my house and this beautiful country. I'm enjoying last bonfires, dinners and time in my backyard. I'm relishing walks in the vineyard. I'm enjoying the last time I'll experience the blossoms of spring and my rose bushes coming up. I'm loving my kitchen and large oven, praying someone else lives in the house after us that also will also love to cook on it. I'm enjoying the world around me. And in each of these joyful times, I'm knowing it is a final time. I'm saying "farewell Moldova".
I plan to visit my vegetable market, chicken store and meat store in my last week here--all places I'm known as the crazy blonde foreign woman who attempts to speak their language and smiles broadly. The clerks smile when I arrive and greet me, and I pretend I'm a local. I will tell them that I'm moving, and I have appreciated their service. I will tell them goodbye.
I will hug my friends and tell them how they have made my last ten years special, rich and full. I will cry with some and laugh with others. I will recall how small the girls were when we arrived and how much they have grown in the ten years here.
Because I've learned that not saying goodbye doesn't prevent the pain and doesn't keep the goodbye from happening. But saying goodbye is a way to thank the wonderful people around me for how they have blessed my life.
In the past few years I've reconnected with Jennifer & Jill others from my Sunday school class via Facebook. Each are now well past the age I was when I left without a goodbye. They are wives and moms and business women--lovers of Jesus. Forgive me, girls, for not saying goodbye. Thank you for teaching me the importance of goodbyes.
Goodbye is a necessary ending.