(I am taking a little vacation from writing this blog. So today and next Monday I am running two of my earlier reflections. This one is from July 22, 2013. I will resume writing new reflections on Monday September 5.)
When we part from another person, we ordinarily say “goodbye” in English. The etymology of “goodbye” is interesting. It is derived from the phrase “God be with you.” If you squish the four words together, you will come up with “goodbye.”
The French adieu and the Spanish adios are similar. They are short for a dieu vous commant and a dios vos acomiendo both of which mean “I commend you to God.” I think it’s rather wonderful that our parting words to one another are really a short wish or prayer that the other person might walk with God. (I wonder if atheists know this?”)
The German goodbye is different. It’s auf wiedersehen which literally means “until we see each other again.” I like that. It implies that this parting in not final. In English we sometimes say “See ya!” which implies the same thing. When I say my final goodbye to a loved one at their death, I sometimes whisper under my breath “Auf wiedersehen,” meaning “I’ll see you again—in eternity.” (There’s an old German proverb that says, “Those who live in the Lord never see each other for the last time.”)
We say other things to each other when we bid goodbye. I often hear and say “Take care.” I like that too for it means, “You are precious to me—so take care of yourself.” Or, “The world is a precious place, but a precarious one, so take care as you negotiate your way through it.”
At our partings, we often hear, “Have a good day.” Some people think this phrase is so overused it has been rendered meaningless. But I, for one, still like the phrase. I think it fosters good feelings between people—even strangers (a cashier at the checkout and a customer, for example.) The phrase also implies that we, to a certain extent, determine what kind of a day we’re going to have—often by our attitude. (I read somewhere: If someone says to you, “Have a good day!” just say, “Sorry, but I have other plans.” It usually gets their attention.)
Saying goodbye extends to written communication as well. How do you end your letters, emails, text messages? When I write to a loved one, I often end with “Love, Melannie,” “Love and prayers, Melannie,” or “With much love, Melannie.” Sometimes I say “prayerfully” or “In Jesus or “In Mary.” With more formal correspondence I usually opt for the simple yet timeless, “Sincerely.”
Our partings from one another are very significant. That’s because we never know for sure when we will see each other again—or even if we will see each other again. When we experience the sudden or unexpected death of a friend or loved one, often we immediately recall our last goodbye—which has now become our “final” goodbye. (A touching story: A couple had been married for 50 years. When the wife crawled out of bed one morning, she said “good morning” to her husband and gave him a kiss. They chatted for a moment. Then she got up while he stayed in bed. A short time later she went back to check on him and found him dead of a massive heart attack. Later she remarked, “If I had known he was going to die that morning, I would never have stopped kissing him.”)
Because our partings are so important, we often mark them with ritualistic words (goodbye…see ya… take care… I love you) and with actions (kisses, hugs, pats on the back, handshakes, high-fives, fist bumps). These words and gestures are all beautiful expressions of our love, respect, and appreciation for one another.
Which raises the question: How should I end this reflection? I think I’ll just say: goodbye, auf wiedersehen, and take care. Love & prayers, Melannie.
The song for today is the classic “Time to Say Goodbye”sung by Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman:
What are some of the ways you say goodbye to people?