Leaving teaches lessons in saying goodbye

Anita Doberman: Guest Columist

Goodbye is a powerful word. By saying it we close a chapter, a relationship, and move on to something else. It’s great if we are the one who really wants to say it; not so wonderful if we are left behind.

I have a long list of goodbyes in my life. As you can imagine, being a military family, “Hello, I am new here; be my instant best friend,” and

“Goodbye, we are moving on but let’s keep in touch” are words I know by heart.

Having moved away from Italy at a young age, I have also had my share of goodbyes when it came to leaving family. And, being married to a military man who deploys often, I have had to withstand the deployment goodbye, one of my least favorite — mostly because I am so choked up the words don’t make it out of my mouth.

Last week I added a new goodbye to what I thought was a comprehensive list. My oldest daughter Luisa started kindergarten. This day had sneaked up on me. My husband’s upcoming departure and relatives in town had filled my days with activities and last-minute errands.

As I took her to school, she seemed self confident and excited. I watched her walk away with a giant backpack (I gave in to buying the Bratz one), her new school outfit, pink shoes, skirt, and socks, and a big smile on her face. When she said goodbye I did not realize I would have a hard time.

I had not thought about the fact that her goodbye meant a new chapter in my life, not just hers. She was growing up and moving into a new world without me! I could already see her imminent marriage, my impending old age, and grandchildren.

I had a knot in my throat but pushed it back down when I saw how happy she looked. I stood outside her classroom as the door closed — almost into my face because I watched as long as I could. I saw other moms crying, but years of military living had taught me to wait until I got to my car. Still, I put on my sunglasses, just in case that big knot sneaked up on me.

When I went back to my van, I thought about how many more times I will have to say goodbye to her, and how important it is to prepare not only our children but also ourselves for when they leave. I thought about my own parents, with whom I am very close, and wondered how difficult it must have been for them to see a daughter move far away. Yet, they never let me see it or feel guilty about it.

I hope I can be a parent like my own, maybe not exactly the same, but someone who can let her children go without making them feel guilty for wanting to build their own lives. And quite honestly, that’s not an easy thing to do. I have met many parents who have a hard time letting go of their children (see my mother in law).

Still, there’s a good reason parting is called sweet sorrow, and not just sorrow. It is easy to take those we love for granted, even our children.

The pain of goodbye is the mirror image of love. And that lump in our throats reminds us just how fortunate we are to have someone worth missing.