The Ways We Say Goodbye

(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 goodbyechild-waving-goodbye-595429__180commant 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.)

goodbyemilitary-864397__180Saying 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?

No Comments

  1. John Hopkins on August 22, 2016 at 5:35 am

    What’s nice about your blog, Sr. Melannie, is the way you present a rather routine, pedestrian topic — the way we say goodbye — and turn it into something profound. In July, my nephew and I walked a portion of the Camino, a pilgrimage road in northern Spain. Along our walk, we encountered hundreds of other pilgrims, and we always hailed each other with “buen camino!”, literally, “good way.” But as our walk came to an end, this greeting also became a goodbye. We would hug and say, “buen camino!”, and then go our separate ways. It was beautiful! Imagine if “God be with ye” never contracted into “goodbye.” It, too, could be used as a greeting, similar to Elizabeth’s when she greeted Mary.

  2. Ann Schmid on August 22, 2016 at 10:22 am

    When a person says I won’t say goodbye, I usually say I have no trouble saying goodbye because it means God be with you !

  3. Nancy Connor on August 22, 2016 at 10:30 am

    Have a great vacation, Sister Melannie, and come back rested and inspired so that you can continue to inspire us.

  4. Jean Canatsey on August 22, 2016 at 10:45 am

    Dear Sister Melannie,
    Goodbyes have always been very important to me because my parents never failed to kiss me when we parted. My father always made it clear that we never knew when it would be the last time we had that opportunity. I always hug a friend when we part and my letters end with “Love” if it is someone who is close to me. Otherwise, I usually close with, “Take care and God Bless.”
    One of our granddaughters failed to tell her brother “goodbye” when she moved because she was angry. I begged her to go back because she might not have the opportunity again. She refused, and two weeks later he hung himself. She claims she doesn’t care but I know it has left a hole in her heart. Please pray for Jeanna.

  5. Rose on August 22, 2016 at 7:17 pm

    Ciao bella

  6. Philomena Mazzarino on August 22, 2016 at 9:14 pm

    Have a great time in Maine
    Thank you for your weekly messages and music what a treat.

  7. Joan Houtekier, OSM on August 24, 2016 at 10:12 pm

    Dear Melannie,

    I am enjoying your Monday reflections very much. This one on “The Ways We Say Goodbye” was filled with much wisdom regarding something we say almost daily. I liked what you wrote about “Have a good day” which is something we often hear in our daily lives at work, while shopping, in our families or communities, etc. It is true that our attitude often does determine our day.

    When I sign off on a card, email, etc. I often write: “Blessings” wishing that person the many blessings of our faithful God.

    I remember fondly making two retreats with you a few years back at Shalom Center in Dubuque, IA and Marillac Center in Kansas. Both were wonderful retreats filled with many “blessings”.

    Thank you, Melannie and blessings on your ministry of writing, giving retreats, etc. Joan Houtekier, OSM

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