When we part from another person, we ordinarily say “goodbye” in English. The etymology of the word “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 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 is not final. In English we sometimes say “See ya!” which implies the same thing. When I say my final goodbye to my loved ones at their deaths, I sometimes say an auf Wiedersehen under my breath, meaning “I’ll see you again–in eternity.”
We say other things to each other when we bid goodbye. I often hear and use “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 but precarious place, 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 is rendered meaningless. But I, for one, still like this 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, to a certain extent, we determine what kind of a day we’re going to have–often by our attitude. (I read this 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 or emails? When I write to my loved ones I often end with “Love, Melannie,” “Love & 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 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 true story: A couple had been married for over 50 years. When the wife went to crawl out of bed one morning, she said “good morning” to her husband and gave him a big kiss. They chatted a moment. Then she got up while he stayed in bed. A short time later, he had a massive heart attack and died. 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 (a goodbye, see ya, take care) and with actions (kisses, hugs, pats on the back, hand shakes, 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.
What are some of the ways you say goodbye to people?