It occurred to me as I watched a dear friend say a final good-bye to a beloved son that good-byes are rarely “good” and often deeply painful. The etymology of this common form of farewell comes from godbwye (1570s), itself a contraction of God be with ye traced back to the late 14th century. The French adieu has a similar origin from the phrase a dieu vous commant translated I commend you to God. And if we had kept the original meaning in current parlance, maybe it would feel both “good” and “Godly” when a good-bye is heard.
But such is not always the case. Many good-byes feel like good riddance with good luck thrown in for good measure. The most painful good-byes in my life have been abrupt, unexpected, and have come from the lips of those I had most trusted. I’m sure I am not alone in considering these good-byes as unfair and unwarranted.
What would it take to consider all those moments of abandonment by those we love as “good” or “Godly”. “Good” is probably the hardest concept to conjure up. But sometimes we are blessed with new wisdom down the road that changes our perception and allows us to see the “good” in those farewells and we find ourselves down on our knees saying a thousand thank yous. “Godly” is a bit easier. Since I readily admit that I don’t know what is best for me and that a power greater than myself does, I can trust that the acceptance of a painful good-bye will eventually be mine regardless of how many tears have been shed. I can trust in the promise that God will not send me off on any path, even the ones that I myself have mis-chosen, that is outside His realm of care. Not that these good thoughts don’t occasionally disappear in moments of regret and self-pity.
Hello’s sometimes seem equally misnamed, at least those that have led us into relationships that have brought more misery than happiness. Those hello’s that slip out in a moment of infatuation or greed or inattention. That probably should have been a “hell-no” instead.
I realize, of course, that we attach our own meaning to these greetings as life is lived, as battles are won and lost, as we mature or hang on to childish notions. To see a hello or good-bye unadulterated by life’s traumas, we only have to turn to our grandchildren, especially in their toddler years. When their eyes fill with delight at our coming and with tears at our departure, when they hurl their little bodies across the room to grab our knees in greeting or to try to keep us from leaving, when kisses are blown with pudgy little hands or slobbery kisses wet our cheeks, we know in our souls that there is no hell in hello and that good-byes are made up of a zillion chunks of pure love.
My mid-year resolution is to learn to say hell-no when I need to and to try to find “good” in every good-bye I’ve ever been blessed to hear.