The Art of Saying Goodbye


No one likes to think about death.  I believe for the most part we go about our lives trying desperately to remain oblivious to the fact that our time with the ones we love is short.  And then out of the blue, on a seemingly normal day, we are broadsided with the looming presence of death and the reality of grief blooms like a weed in a garden of brightly coloured blossoms.

Unfortunately this infiltration of weedy grief often touches us when the promise of tomorrow ends for someone we love.  Very often the first seeds are sown with the shrill ring of the phone and a quiet voice on the other end that proclaims, “I have some bad news.”  Time stands still while an icy chill of disbelief and shock settles into your soul.  This is quickly followed by the hot rush of tears that unfortunately do little to wash away the swirling sadness.  And somewhere in that alternating chill and heat we need to find a way to say goodbye.

This week I will bid one of my cousins goodbye.  He was young; far too young to die.

In the disbelief and confusion, and admitted anger that something like this should happen to a man still in his prime, we will gather together as a family and celebrate a life that ended far too soon.  When a person dies, those left behind are faced with the disbelief, confusion, anger and guilt that threatens to overwhelm a grieving soul.    But succumbing  to these negative emotions only fills your garden with choking weeds that give no room for healing and ultimately acceptance.  When saying goodbye, we need to find the strength to pull out these metaphorical weeds and plant a rose or lily or tulip in their place.  For the art of saying goodbye is not in the speculation of what might have been, but in the truth of what was.  Saying goodbye is about making peace and not in living with the guilt and regret of what you wished you had done or said differently.

These words of peace and acceptance exist in a perfect world and are easier to write then to achieve.  I come from a large family that has spread far and wide, and with all large families you begin to lose touch with the ones you grew up with.  In all honesty I have not seen my cousin in more than six years but that does not make the sting of his passing any less.  Since Tuesday, when the phone rang and the chill of death ran deep into my being, I have reflected on how I should have made greater efforts to keep in touch, but those guilt encrusted thoughts will do nothing to bring him back.  And so I will take the time to plant a few roses, lilies and tulips into my metaphorical garden.  I will say goodbye and I will remember…

My cousin was easy going, had a quick smile and would happily drop everything to help you

My cousin was a proud member of our Canadian military who had just returned from Afghanistan

My cousin put up with, and amused, a younger tag-along cousin for countless summers

My cousin spent a day conspiring with me to sneak into the milking barn when we knew full well he wasn’t allowed to take me there without my Uncle

My cousin would show me harmless garter snakes until I was no longer frightened and grew fascinated by their coiled smoothness

My cousin and I spent one sunny afternoon pilfering through the old clothes up in the attic, trying to come up with some kind of costume so we could convince our parents to let us be part of a local parade.

My cousin could dance.  Oh how he could dance!  He could spin you around that dance floor with your feet hardly touching the ground, your head thrown back in delight until you were both too breathless to continue and your feet jumbled up and you dissolved into laughter

My cousin laughed easily

My cousin was loved

Rest in Peace.  You will be missed

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17 thoughts on “The Art of Saying Goodbye

  1. So sorry for your loss… I lost two cousins this summer, within two weeks time, both early 40’s… too young. I understand your thought that time and distance didn’t change the closeness of feeling. Loved what you wrote about your cousin.

  2. This is a wonderful post and tribute. I lost my Mom in June and I can so relate to that telephone call you talked about. I did a blog entry about the day she passed and the days that followed. I found that to also help the grieving process. My thoughts go out for your family at this time.

  3. Sherene, I am so sorry for your loss. Losing a family member suddenly is such a gut wrenching experience, but the words you have written to capture your emotions are gorgeous. Although you may not have seen him much in the last few years, you will always have those wonderful memories from your childhood to keep you going. You and your family are in my thoughts.

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