Early this morning, shortly after I arrived at work, I found that one of my erstwhile coworkers was handing out tasty candy with a card attached. The card I received had a cute pink and orange bird on level ground and the following text was printed inside in a small but beautiful hand: “Nathan, it’s been nice working & knowing you! Congrats again on your promotion by joining our finance team! Hope you will have opportunity to visit Thailand again 🙂 ~Angel~.” The rest of my coworkers on this team received their own bars of candy and their own personalized cards, which I thought was a nice touch. During lunch I happened to run into her, and we discussed our travels, and I gave her some information from my own experiences relevant to her wish to travel to Israel to see holy sites as a relatively new professed Christian. Later in the afternoon we received an e-mail to which I sent a friendly reply, as is my fashion. Before she left in order to engage in new projects, we all told her to keep in touch with us, after all, this was no goodbye to someone we had no interest in seeing again, but rather a farewell until we see each other again .
As it happens, as she came around to give her farewells in person to us, as she seems to be a person who is reluctant to bid farewell, I had to dry my eyes from the song I was listening to that had similar thematic content. The song in question was “Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own,” from U2. The song belongs to a particularly poignant set of songs that remind me of my own troubled relationship with my father, who it is my misfortune to strongly resemble in terms of my physical appearance. When I was a child, the fact that I looked so much like my father was proof in his eyes of my paternity, but for most of my own life the resemblance has brought me no particular pleasure. At any rate, a song about the difficulty of saying goodbye happened to coincide with a goodbye that someone appeared to have a difficult time making. I tend to find it easy to be compassionate to people whose natures I view somewhat similar to my own. As someone who tends to say goodbye awkwardly and with great reluctance, I tend to be kind to those whom I view as similarly awkward people themselves.
While in general I would consider myself a somewhat endearingly awkward person in my interactions with others, there are different reasons for different types of awkwardness. In the case of saying goodbye, I have a particularly difficult time because I am not someone who does a good job at letting go. I still awake with nightmares going back to the first few years of my life, and have more or less resigned myself to the fact that so long as I draw breath on this earth I will live a haunted existence. There will always be ties in my own memory and feelings between me and a host of other people who are no longer alive and at least a few who would probably be happy not to think of me ever again. And yet such people often tend to haunt my existence, despite the fact that they almost certainly have never had that interest or desire. I have never desired to be the source of torment or unhappiness for anyone else, but I know that I have been the cause of suffering for others and it has caused me a great deal of unhappiness to have been the unwitting instrument by which sorrow and suffering has been brought into the lives of others, whether I have caused them to suffer directly or whether they have suffered on my behalf or on the behalf of others who have suffered from causes related to me.
My own struggles in saying farewell, which have been lifelong in nature, have led me to ponder goodbyes in a larger sense. It is my fervent hope that God gives up on others very slowly, and that is my reading of scripture that God is immensely reluctant to abandon people and leave them to a well-earned but deeply lamented fate. So long as we leave a line open to others, there is the chance that a stony silence may be broken by friendly conversation, that a cold shoulder may become a warm embrace, and where the wounds of words and deeds done in the past can heal and that the traumatic memories of the past can be mitigated by more positive ones in the future. I am more than usually reluctant to close the door forever to other people. I would rather leave my door unlocked, or at least keep close enough to it that I may open it if someone knocks at the door asking to come in out of the rain. Whether other people feel the same way or not is generally irrelevant; I am responsible for myself alone, and that responsibility is sufficient to be all I can bear and more.
 See, for example: