Farewells and Goodbyes

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Some years back a good friend of mine said goodbye to his wife and strode off for his early morning walk. He never came back. He died tragically along the road of a heart attack. The event had a profound effect on me and often comes to mind, especially when I’m saying goodbye to someone.

Our farewells and goodbyes can be so superficial and so unconsciously offered. I think they tend to be this way because we don’t easily grasp and understand the vulnerability and impermanence of life.

Well known poet and philosopher, John O’Donohue, described his father’s daily farewell to them as he left for work in the morning. “The last thing he did as he walked out the door was to turn back towards us in the kitchen and inhale a full explicit breath…And it seems that what he was doing as he left was inhaling the spirit of his loved ones to nourish and protect his journey, turning back to take for himself a blessing-breath.”

Among all the goodbyes we say, big and small, we know that the time will come when a certain farewell will be the last. The essence and depth of that goodbye will always depend on how we have made all the others.

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About Don

I love life. Sometimes it makes sense, other times not. Discerning its underlying patterns and beauty always provides great reward and meaning and is a passion I ineptly follow. I feel deeply attached to nature and love the sea with its distinct moods and colour and find walking along its beaches wonderfully inspiring. Writing, sketching and photography is a sheer joy for me and the blog is one of the places I am able to express these pursuits.
This entry was posted in inspiration, Life, Photography, Relationships, Spirituality, wisdom and insight and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

44 Responses to Farewells and Goodbyes

  1. renxkyoko says:

    That certainly was an eye-opener. I’ll be more aware from now on.

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  2. Dear Don, Thank you and many blessings. Ellen

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  3. My Mum taught me that. I think, now, reading your words, that she must have had a similar experience to you though she didn’t ever tell me so.
    Thank you so much for the reminder.
    Stay safe, 🙂

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  4. josna says:

    This is a very moving piece, Don, that reminds me once again of what’s important in life. Traditionally, leave-takings are very important for this very reason: not only because one wishes to give or receive blessings for a safe journey, but also because one does not know when or whether one will see the family member or friend again. It is haunting to think that a parting which turns out to have been the last might have been a casual or distracted one, or worse, marked by irritation or anger.

    On a lighter note, is the woman in your photograph who is waving goodbye with her right hand, wiping her eyes with her left hand, or holding a cell phone?!

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    • Don says:

      Josna, your words. “It is haunting to think that a parting which turns out to have been the last might have been a casual or distracted one, or worse, marked by irritation or anger” are haunting themselves – so deeply true.

      As far as your question goes, Ah! Josna, that is the question. Each will describe the kind of farewells I’ve spoken about. So, you choose. It is whatever you think.

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  5. Healthy A-Z says:

    And the opportunity to take in a little extra love from those that matter so much in our lives is always a good thing!

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  6. A wonderful sentiment to have, Don. I always throw kisses and a wave; a very heartfelt kiss and wave. It is so true; we never know which goodbye will be the last.

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  7. I needed this one today. Thanks so much.

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  8. Your friend’s final goodbye is a heart-wrenching experience although a wake up call of sorts for not only you but those of us that you have shared this with. I tend to give leave by saying “see you soon” instead of “goodbye”. I noticed this morning when I dropped my son at school that I have a habitual phrase that I say each and every day. I always part his company by saying, “have a good day. I’ll see you when you get home.” Perhaps the thought of saying goodbye is too hard to let cross my lips. Thought-provoking post yet again, Don.

    -Melissa

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    • Don says:

      Thanks for sharing this Melissa. I love your insight – “Perhaps the thought of saying goodbye is too hard to let cross my lips.”

      I suppose it’s not so much the words we speak but the heartfelt sentiment behind those words. Therein lies the true spirit of our goodbyes.

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  9. So sad. I have had a few too many of these in my life and it certainly does make us more aware of how important each and every goodbye is.

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  10. ladyfi says:

    It really puts life into perspective, doesn’t it?

    So sad – my condolences on your loss.

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  11. saymber says:

    I enjoyed this post and the message really resonates with me. I’m the family member that everybody has learned to take to the airport, dump me and my luggage on the curb and drive away quickly! For a time good-bye was very morbid for me because so many have been forever. When I hug someone at parting sometimes that I know I won’t see for a long time be it tangible or intangible I feel like I’m almost inhaling them into me if that makes sense…it’s so hard to be away from those we love. With the world we live in now where families are scattered all about I think farewells are even tougher. My husband and I never part without a kiss, a hug and I love you’s. Never take the ones you love for granted.

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    • Don says:

      Your openness and vulnerability is so refreshing. Your word picture of “inhaling” is such a profound one. much like the one John O’ Donohue describes. You are so right about the world we live in now – families are scattered all over the globe. We’re one such family and goodbyes can be very painful. Thank you for your meaningful comment.

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  12. Kathy Marsden says:

    Some good-byes are easier than others. I’ve said good-bye and closed a door and walked away because I wanted to. Another time I’ve said good-bye in pain and never took the chance to say hullo again when I had it, and then the person died. I vowed that would never happen again if I could help it. I’ve had to say good-bye to my dearest friend when she lost her battle with cancer. I hate good-byes. Recently I found a line written by Paul to people he had to say good-bye to, and they have deep meaning for me:
    “…separated from you – in person, not in heart -” (1 Thes.2:17b)
    Good-byes are part of life but I hold onto the hope of saying hullo again.
    Thanks for sharing, Don! Love the pic.

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    • Don says:

      Thank you Kathy. I agree with you, there are those goodbyes that are easier than others. All sorts of reasons for that. I suppose a key one being the depth of the relationship. Knowing something of what you went through I can grasp just a little of the immense pain you went through saying goodbye to your dearest friend. Like you Kathy, I hope that somewhere all our painful goodbyes are answered with a resounding Hullo.

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  13. It is so much about taking things and people for granted, isn’t it? We go off to work, assuming we’ll be home again. Assuming we won’t be another death-on-the-road statistic or a victim of violent crime. If, when I left my dad’s bedside on the night of 26 December 2005, I’d known that I’d get that early morning call, I would have said a different goodbye. I’ve said goodbye to two sisters as they went to make new lives for themselves overseas. Goodbye is hard to do.

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    • Don says:

      I think Jacquie it does have everything to do with taking things and people for granted, as you say. Assumptions kind of put us in to a robotic mode and we just don’t see and feel as we should. I feel for you with your two sisters and know something of that. Both our children did the same thing, and it’s not easy. Your experience concerning the goodbye to your Dad must be such a painful one. Thanks for sharing Jacquie – appreciate it.

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  14. Don, this is a very poignant and needed reminder to take the time for a “blessing breath” regularly. It always amazes me how well I can remember the last words and actions I’ve shared with someone ( even pets) before they died.

    Blessings ~ Wendy

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    • Don says:

      Your goodbyes are obviously charged with your presence that’s why you remember them so well, Wendy. It’s a gift. I know exactly what you mean when you speak of pets and releasing them. Thank you.

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  15. darrelhoff says:

    Don, I recommend that book: The unlikely pilgramage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce. Your first line of this blog reminded me of that. He leaves his house to post a letter… and doesnt come back for awhile…

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  16. katy says:

    So so sad Don. So full of “what ifs”

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  17. Theo Coggin says:

    Saying good-bye is one of the most silently courageous things we all have to do. There is no doubt in my mind that is the reason why many want to do so quickly – or like one of my closest relatives always wishes, for one not to linger when one says good-bye, such as at an airport. “Hamba Kahle” (“Go well”) and “Sala Kahle” (“Stay well”) – the rejoinder to the first farewell – are Zulu words that capture for me the full import of bidding “Fare Thee Well!” Somehow, in English, we have forgotten that old form of “Good-bye”.

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    • Don says:

      Enjoyed your comment Theo. That bit of wanting to do it quickly is so true. I have often seen regret take hold of people because they did it so quickly. I’ve also watched it act itself out at airports and I’ve even felt the temptation myself.Those Zulu words certainly do capture the import of it all. thank you Theo.

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  18. katy says:

    I,m sure you know Don that Goodbye is shortened form of “God be with you” The English love to shorten things don,t they.

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  19. Inhaling the spirits of the loved ones…how beautiful is that! My dad always nuzzled the top of my head, and I think it was much the same, except not written so beautifully.

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    • Don says:

      I too found it to be a beautiful image, Marilyn. I wonder if we all don’t have our little ways of doing this, like your dad did with you. I suppose if we looked long enough we would discover or remember them.

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  20. dmgartphoto says:

    Thats a sad story but also strangely strengthening I think (the story that is, not your experience). Its sometimes good to be reminded of how uncertain our tomorrows are. It helps set ones personal prioritization right (whatever those are for different people).

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  21. Wonderful photograph to accompany another one of your wise and thoughtful reminders as we go through life. Let us all stay present and conscious of our goodbye’s and all our moments, and remember to cherish them. Thank you Don. ~Gina

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  22. Hey Don, this is a really great post, and a good reminder to never take anything for granted. Thx, Val 🙂

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