Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Saying Good-bye in a Connected World


Good-bye Grandpa Siller

My first remembrance of saying good-bye forever was the sudden death of my grandfather when I was five years old. My grandparents lived in a home on Lake Erie that was a wonder to us grandchildren. We could play hide-n-seek for hours on end, never seeming to run out of good places.

When my grandfather died, Grandmother set up a wake in the living room, which went on for several days. I distinctly remember hovering around the edges watching and wondering about the mixture of behaviors. There were tears, laughter, hugs, more tears, all with a distinct feeling of joy and hope. It was in that living room that I discovered good-byes could be permanent yet tinged with happiness and remembrance that would last forever (well until death comes).

My grandmother was a witness to me in the next years that death was part of life. Good-byes can be forever but don’t have to be debilitating. She went on an around the world cruise on one of the Queens (Mary?) with her sister instead of her husband, she spent months in Japan helping a niece after the jet crash of her air force husband, she took us on vacations, and never did we miss a reason to celebrate all together. Love and care and life continued. I loved her hugs and teasing, her incredible way of listening while I was working through a personal problem. I miss her to this day. But I also carry all she taught me about how to say good-bye and continue to live a full life.

Rediscovery through our connected world

All of the cousins with whom I played through the years moved away from our family location, most leaving the Cleveland area. All our parents have passed away and after the memorial services we parted ways once again, saying our good-byes with promises of staying connected. Most of us didn’t follow through. Then, suddenly in the past couple of years we have all reconnected through Facebook; sharing lives, pictures, adventures. It is a wonderful feeling of hello, not good-bye. Yet something is lacking.

Saying Good-bye to my friends and colleagues

Recently, as many of you reading this blog know, my colleague in ministry Edward Dunn has moved on to find ministry in Detroit Michigan. It is a natural move on many levels but saying good-bye has been hard for me. But we are still connected – yes through all the social media that we choose to join. Yet something is lacking.

And it got me to thinking about good-byes and social media. I love Facebook! It has re-connected me with high school students from past youth groups who have grow up and have their own families. It has reconnected me to my own extended family. I follow colleagues in ministry from former locations, from seminary. Facebook has made my life richer in so many ways. Yet, something is still lacking.

Enriching as FB is, it hurts to not be able to regularly look my friends in the eye and share conversation that is honest and deep, humorous and sad, hopeful and fearful. Short snippets of life, as wonderful as they are, do not compare with in-the-same-room conversation and the touch of a hand or a hug to lift the spirits.

I miss my family, I miss my colleagues, all of whom I have said good-bye to in some form or another. But taking a note from my grandmother, I am happy to have these connections (albeit on social media). I am thrilled miles that keep us apart are crossed so easily. Yes, it isn’t the same as in the past, sharing face-to-face, but the good-byes become physical not emotional.

I promise to do better at using social media, FaceTime, Skype, etc. better so that I can see your faces and feel your mood. But in the meantime, see you on Facebook.

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