“How do you say goodbye to someone when you’ve barely had a chance to say hello?”At first, my wife, Jodie, and I bolted from our Plano house, packed the Escape as best we could, and began to count the number of things we forgot as we passed through the steel canyons of downtown Dallas and toward Houston. We were anticipating the imminent birth of our first grandchild - a girl – with my son, Robert and his wife, Amanda.
Chugging down diet Cokes and cracking the window open for a stream of fresh, cool air, we fixed our sights on Interstate-45 and being the lone four-wheeler among a sea of Freightliners and big Mac trucks.
But … the phone rang an hour later into our journey, and I sensed something was wrong. When my wife said I might want to pull the vehicle over the shoulder – in the middle of nowhere - in the darkness of the night – I knew the news was bad. Very bad.
You see, nothing good ever happens in the middle of the night – in the middle of nowhere – when the phone rings.
There were complications; the baby had no heartbeat but she wasn’t yet born. Things went from bad to worse to worst. When we arrived, the tears had begun to flow but the tragedy had not been completed.
I saw scenes of extreme pain that are usually only viewed in movies or on “ER;” except it was real life and it was involving my family members. You could see that the weight of the world, as if someone chopped off the top of Mount Shasta, had been plopped on their shoulders. And it was crushing them as they struggled to maintain composure and dignity. That was the worst thing of it all for me.
When I heard the news about what had happened, one question immediately lodged into my mind: “How do you say goodbye to someone when you’ve barely had a chance to say hello?” The words sat there, rolling around like one of those BB balls in a child’s game that kids get at the church bazaar fish pond. Like that little ball, trying to find the right hole to land, we’ve all been trying to find the right answer.
Sometimes the phrase, “I don’t know why” is an honest response. We might never fully know why things – good OR bad – happen the way they do. They just do … and people might just have to accept that. Of course, questions like mine still need more clarification.
Grief, for us, is still an individual thing. Mourning is a group activity (nations mourn, communities mourn; people grieve). Your thoughts are your own; you process them on your own.
In contrast, you celebrate as a group. When the Cowboys win a Super Bowl, for example, people probably cheer and celebrate in homes, at parties or in other places … together. Hoot and holler and jump up and down on your own and people say “you’re freaking out.” But … you grieve on your own.
To overcome the grief, you need an internal Kitchen-Aid blender of sorts and here’s what you put into it:
• inspirational words from books of faith, such as the Bible, the Torah, the Talmud, or whatever text you read which is your connection to God;
• phrases uttered by poets or singers connected to the magic of music;
• those metaphorical scenes from a movie or a player that perfectly encapsulates what you want to say or feel;
• and the faces and memories of loved ones that have gone before us.
You place the lid and press “mix,” and produce this … smoothie for the soul. That concoction, like medicine, bitter or sweet, will help the body and heart of all of us … to heal.
So how do you say goodbye to someone when you barely had to time say hello?
Somehow, we got through the arduous ordeal as best we could. The outpouring of emotion and love for my son, his wife and their child, for each moment of her existence and life, was beyond description. Several hundred people came to the graveside services and I was more than touched; I was overwhelmed. The extended circle of friends that enveloped them comforted them and me. I know that they will love - and remember - Payton Elisabeth for each waking moment as long as all walk this mortal earth … and beyond.
So HOW do you say goodbye when you haven’t had enough time to say hello?
Well, you do and you don’t.
You will and you won’t.
You use hope, life and love.
And somewhere … among all that, that little ball will find the right hole. There will be an answer; that I know.