There are some things you just absorb in life, some things you don’t think about until later and you realize these were the special moments that have incredible meaning.
Like saying goodbye.
I remember the family visits to grandparents and cousins and far away friends and as those visits came to an end, there was a feeling that would come over us. Not a “pall” like poets would write, but a cloud. A cloud of anticipation, of readiness, of regret and of hope for one more moment with the people we loved.
In my memories, I can see us always gathered at the curb. In front of whatever home, no matter what the weather. We’d slowly gravitate toward our places — those of us who would be traveling would aim for our side of the car and our relatives would circle us, and we’d make some last minute comments about the visit or funny moments or things we promised to do when we got home. And then came the hugs.
My grandmothers — each of them — would always give us kids extra hugs and kisses. And we’d all stall a bit, lengthening our time together, until we’d break apart and wave and yell our goodbyes out the car windows until we could no longer see the waving hands and tears of some.
As the years would go by, my maternal grandmother would always say, “This isn’t goodbye” and I remember asking my mother why she used that phrase. Mom explained that we never knew when our last moment would be with each other, so rather than think of moments as the final ones, “this isn’t goodbye” meant that we looked forward to our next moments together.
I was blessed to hear “this isn’t goodbye” for many visits and Mom was right: That made each moment special. Each parting was immediately turned into the thought of our next time together.
Even when my grandmother was frail and made the effort to fly to see us, we’d make special arrangements at the airport to be the first ones to greet her and the last ones she saw before she boarded her flight. And even when I was out of college and proud to be an independent working woman, I could count on the fact that my family would hold on tight until the very last minute when it was time for us to say our farewells.
That’s called love. That’s called family. And for me, it’s one of the greatest gifts I can pass along to my children. No matter how old you are, no matter how frail I become, I want to hold you close to me until the very last second. Because I love you so incredibly much that I never, ever want to say goodbye.