The Ways We Say Goodbye

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 goodbyethink 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 military goodbyewe 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?


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  1. Kathleen Magiera on July 22, 2013 at 5:46 am

    Sr. Melannie,

    Great message!

    I often include a thank you as I say goodbye to folks (especially if it will be awhile before I see them again). In my often busy doings, I need to stop and take time to be with friends and family. That is why I like connections like Skype where you can actually see the person. Gratitude for time spent together is an important part of goodbye for me.


    • Melannie Svoboda SND on July 22, 2013 at 8:32 pm

      Dear Kathleen, I like what you said: “Gratitude for time spent together is an important part of goodbye for me.” Yes, we thank people for gifts. And their greatest gift is their choice to spend time with us. Thank you for responding! Melannie

  2. Sister Miriam Denis on July 22, 2013 at 1:12 pm

    Just last week I lost my grandnephew (age 30). When I kissed him goodbye I said, Charles Anthony I love you and I always will.

    • Melannie Svoboda SND on July 22, 2013 at 8:34 pm

      Dear Miriam, My deepest sympathy to you on the death of your grandnephew. When you said goodbye to him, you expressed love’s deepest truth: it is eternal! Melannie

  3. marian on July 23, 2013 at 9:25 pm

    most frequents “Good byes”
    Good bye sweet cakes(daughters) Good bye sunshine (son) Good bye handsome (hubby) Good bye wonderful (students)

    God, take “____ ” into your arms…be with us both (death of a loved one)

    God, bless you and keep you (silent blessing for people I don’t know)

    Thank you ( for others who are very generous with their ‘gifts.’)

    • Melannie Svoboda SND on July 24, 2013 at 1:42 pm

      Dear Marian, I love your examples! You must make these individuals feel special simply by your way of saying goodbye to them. Thank you for sharing these! Gratefully, Melannie

  4. Esther Laczko on July 27, 2013 at 11:39 am

    My folks were Polish, and ever since we were little they would tell us “speech Bog um” (Not sure of the spelling) meaning “sleep with God” How comforting this is = to this day. We said it to my Mom when she was taking her last breaths. Very comforting to us. Esther Laczko

    • Melannie Svoboda SND on July 27, 2013 at 9:57 pm

      Dear Esther, What a beautiful tradition! And how appropriate for you to say to your mother as she was going home to God. Thank you very much for sharing this! Melannie

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