Fond Farewells

I do not say ‘Goodbye’ anymore. Last year in Alaska I learned ‘a hui hou’ from some dear friends from Hawai’i. It means something more along the line of ‘till we meet again,’ but it is definitely not ‘Goodbye.’ This year in Metlakatla I learned that they have a similar expression although it is in their Tsimshian language. It is a good thing that I’m writing right now rather than speaking since I would not be able to prounounce it. But the effect is the same—we do not say ‘Goodbye’ because we hold that we will see one another again at some point in life’s journey.
I have been getting more practice with this expression. My family and I are moving to Knoxville, Tennessee today. I am going to be the pastor of a different church. We will be living in a a different community. We will be worshipping and working with an entirely new cast of characters. There is a certain excitement in new beginnings.
But there are conversations that have to take place before the new can begin. So for the past couple of weeks I have been in the process of detaching from our community. The range of emotions has been wide and intense. Many people are surprised and saddened at the news, others not so much. Some are angry at this decision, but that is part of the grief process knowing that the relationship is changing. The conversations have been deeper and more meaningful at this juncture. Parting words and how we say them are vitally important.
It can be difficult to have a conversation with someone who did not want to cry, but then finds the tears are too close to the surface. It can be difficult to try to express appreciation and affirmation when the proximity that made that possible is no longer going to be there. It can be hard to realize tasks that will not be done now that the timeline is growing too short to fit it all in (That sounds like a packing expression, doesn’t it?). Every word takes on more significance. Every meeting of a glance can be more moving. Every little gesture seems to be magnified by the dynamic of detachment that has to happen.
I got some practice for this earlier in the summer. There were the farewells as I left to head to Alaska on mission. People were wishing me well and eager to see me go and to return. Family was understanding but sorry for the time that I would be away. So at airports and docks we practiced some of what I would be doing more of in the days to come. The farewells come more frequently when you are in the process of welcoming and sending teams back and forth in the mission field. It’s good to practice, but it is a skill that we do not like to have to perfect.
So my heart and mind were prepared somewhat for the process that is now taking place. We cannot hold on to moments, even if they seem ideal. We cannot hold on to circumstances because they are always changing. We cannot hold on to one another too tightly lest we restrain the movements of life that carry us along. Our paths diverge and we make choices and decisions that affect the journey. Farewells are part of the process.
I have to say that I have been surprised by some of these recent partings. Sometimes someone will show up whom I have not seen in a while. We will have a delightful conversation and I wonder why we did not do this sooner and more often. Sometimes someone will call and remind me that my presence here has perhaps made more difference than I realized. Sometimes someone will not be able to look me in the eye lest the tears pour out like a TVA floodgate. Farewells are not always predictable or planned.
And they are certainly not painless. There is an intensity in these moments that is beyond what we experience in the day to day. Probably because we do not live as deeply as we might. We float along through the days taking for granted that people are permanent and relationships are enduring. Neither of those is true. It hurts to lose the illusions that tend to soften our regular routines. It is only when we feel the pain that we appreciate the relationships for their true value. The pain is part of the process. Perhaps it makes the process something that we want to hurry through. Knowing it is going to hurt makes it easier to do it all with dispatch.
Yet, there is part of me that knows about this process and is willing to enter more fully. I am saying ‘farewell’ to people who are incredibly dear to me. I am altering the relationship that we will have going forward. I am moving away, so the burden is more on me than on anyone else. I am attempting to let people know that they mean a great deal to me, that they have shaped my life in positive ways, that the changes that are ahead are not fatal or final. We will see one another again! A hui hou, dear friends.

One thought on “Fond Farewells

  1. May God Bless you and keep you well, safe in His arms…we go where He sends us, He has the plan…A Gun Joy is appropriate as I know we will see each other again. You are a great servant of God, may He carry you in His arms….aloha.

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