“I’m so glad to be so sad”—The Incredible Gift of Difficult Goodbyes

The summer after graduating high school, I had a great group of friends who had all kinds of adventures. We would get together and have amazing times which left my soul soaring.

However, some nights, I would wake up and be overcome with anxiety and sadness.

Everything would be changing & I knew it. I would be closing a chapter in my life—one filled with exploration, development, struggles, and growth.

My friends were like family—comfortable like an old sweater; grounding me when I needed a reminder that I belonged to something greater than myself. That summer was bittersweet, downright awesome, and a time I’ll always cherish.

I understood that life didn’t end after graduation, and opportunities were certainly before me, but graduating meant leaving the safety and security I’d come to rely on. I was once an adorable five-year-old without a care in the world, an awkward puberty-stricken teen, and had only lived in one house my entire life. That summer was all i had before I packed up and headed to college and life changed forever.

Two other friends were going to college on athletic scholarships, and we would have late-night talks about what life would be like as NCAA athletes. We would be the first to leave, heading to our respective campuses early for two-a-days and the pre-semester sports preparations.

Saying goodbye loomed in the distance, growing ever-larger as it approached.

Winter break of 2010-2011 was a tough one. It marked the halfway point of my law degree. I had just made the schools’ uber-competitive mock trial team, the only second-year law student to do so. And my best friend was dying.

My grandpa fought cancer for years… I’m talking YEARS. He had been winning the battle, enduring radiation treatment and experimental procedures, but metastasis is a hell of a cycle. His cancer spread to his lungs, and it was pretty much downhill from there.

He was pretty dang important to me. We were two peas in a pod from the day I was old enough to form attachments. Needless to say, I was taking his impending death rough.

My family tried to insulate me from it (his wishes) so as not to compromise law school and my achievements there, even going so far as to downplay Thanksgiving so that I wouldn’t come home right before finals.

But, Christmas and my birthday (Christmas Eve) were a different story. I was going to come home. I was going to have to face his decline.

My relationship with him was invaluable—a profound part of my existence from rambunctious child to a young adult was shaped by him. He was a constant source of humor, love, and support—one I came not only to rely on, but also cherish.

The Sunday before spring semester started, I spent as much time with him as possible. I planned to depart from my grandparents’ house and go back to my apartment 4 hours away. Before I left, my grandpa stopped me:

“I have a few things I’d like to say to you…”

Time stopped.

He gave me every bit of wisdom he had, professed his faith, and sent me away with the best goodbye a girl could ask for.

A week later, he died. I felt as though a part of my heart had died along with him.

I never questioned his love for me. It was obvious each and every time I was in his presence. And, although that was a comforting reminder, the loss was intense.

While I knew deep down he was tired of being a prisoner to his physical ailments, accepting that I would never see him again in this earthly life was difficult to accept.

But, everything balances out, and with that major loss I gained a great amount of strength.

I think we all can agree that saying goodbye is never easy.

And while the word “goodbye” has garnered a rather negative emotional connotation in society, there is a more positive way to perceive it. Although saying goodbye does mean accepting that a part of our life is now over, it also provides us with a chance to realize just how blessed our lives have been.

To look back and reflect on the journeys we’ve shared with some wonderful people, while being exposed to amazing and invaluable experiences we often take for granted.

Regardless of how long someone has been a part of our lives, whether it’s five minutes, five years, or five decades, their impact will always remain with us—even after we utter that simple, yet hard to say, two-syllable word.

Regardless of the circumstances, saying goodbye means change, and change rarely comes along with immediate acceptance.

The finality associated with saying goodbye is challenging. Yet it’s an empowering word, enabling us to achieve closure and ultimately move on with our lives.

“Goodbye may seem forever. Farewell is like the end, but in my heart is the memory and there you will always be.” Walt Disney