Goodbyes Are STILL Sad Things, 33 Years Later

road of_lifeMy mother’s sister Jean died just a few hours ago. She was 85, and she had Alzheimer’s.

She had been hospitalised last week after she fell out of bed at the care facility where she had resided for the last five years.

She was known affectionatley to her sisters, brother, nieces and nephews as “Auntie Jean’o” or “AJ.” She was a good soul with a kind heart. 

I wasn’t at her bedside whent she left this life, but I spent the afternoon saying goodbye to her from a distance. I’ve always hated goodbyes, probably always will. To help the healing process during and after the fact, I turn to a piece I found in a youth hostel guest book almost 33 years ago.

The melancholy, yet somehow also hopeful words touched my heart at the time, and I copied them into my diary, which travels with me to this day. All of this was long before blogs, through which millions now keep their diaries online (see Like a Virgin?)

The passage goes like this:

Goodbyes are sad things. You leave behind dreams that you’ve worked to make real, friends that you’ve suffered to love and sometimes a quiet security that was built with half a lifetime.

On the road, and in life everywhere, you move along and you leave your efforts behind you in the dust, knowing deep inside that you will never find them exactly the same.

Often you spend too much time looking back and you miss something ahead. But there’s little use in trying to escape the loneliness and anxiety that go with you when you move on… for that is life and it is a certainty.

The road teaches you to accept goodbyes as part of saying hello to things that are new, different, and often better. It teaches that what was loved and learned in the past can never be lost, though we sometimes have to let it go.

On the road, and in life everywhere, you spend much time learning, wondering and yes, sometimes remembering.

Youth Hostel Guest Book,
Invercargill, New Zealand
April 24, 1979
I hope Auntie Jean’o is well on her way to a better place now, one that is free of confusion and anxiety and the constant longing to be somewhere other than where she was.  There is something conforting in knowing that in the end, no matter how far and wide we travel and for how long, all roads eventually lead back home.