Sunday, August 26, 2007

No More Goodbyes

It seems life is full of goodbyes - us leaving loved ones and loved ones leaving us.

Some goodbyes we even look forward to - like leaving home to strike out on our own. Then, homesickness, however, reminds us there is a cost attached even to the freedom we desire. Goodbye.

Leaving home for a 6 month or more deployment is tough on both the service member and all of the family. You miss out on so much especially when your children are very young. Goodbye.

Saying goodbye to loved ones who have died is particularly difficult. Sometimes the mourning is all the more difficult because we didn't have the oportunity for one more "goodbye" or "I love you" when someone is taken suddenly with no warning.

I received the call that my mother was in the hospital in critical condition with cancer. My wife, our youngest daughter, and I packed up and set out from Cleveland, OH where I was stationed at the time to go to her bedside in Ruston, LA. In the week I was there, she rallied and was released to go home, but the prognosis was terminal.

Then came the morning I had to leave to go back to Cleveland. After the hugs and kisses, leaving her sitting in that kitchen chair, turning away, and walking to the car was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I knew I would not see her in the flesh ever again. Goodbye.

The youngest daughter had spent the night with her other grandmother. We picked her up and headed down the interstate. About 10 minutes from Ruston, she said she had wanted to say goodbye to Gram. I don't remember my exact words to her, but we didn't go back. It's not that an extra 20-40 mins would have wrecked our schedule, but I didn't think I could leave again - say goodbye again.

Some goodbyes are bittersweet, like dropping your daughter off at college for the first time and driving away. Something has really changed. Parents and child both are exploring freedom, but the family has changed in a way that will never be recovered. Goodbye.

When our daughter and grandchildren moved away after living near for over a year, there's another hard goodbye.

For a father, giving your daughter away in marriage is tough. We may joke about pawning her off on some unsuspecting guy, but the humor just masks the scars. I'll never forget the few minutes sitting there with her in the stairwell off the foyer while we waited for her turn to go down the aisle - her grand entrance on my arm. Only a father can understand the pain of that goodbye.

Most of the time we think of "goodbye" with the expectation of a "hello" down the road. We kiss, hug, and say goodbye when going home from visiting the grandchildren already having planned the next visit. Goodbye.

Someday, there will have been a final goodbye - when death slams the door on hello's and hugs and kisses. But if God be with ye (goodbye), we are ushered into a place where there is no need of goodbyes for all of eternity. Some hello's may have been deferred for a short time, but there will never be another goodbye for goodbye is just an earthly word.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

"I Do" or "I Will"?

My wife and I attended the wedding of the daughter of friends at our church. Saying the bride was beautiful is like saying apple pie is good, so let's just say this hot apple pie had ice cream on top.

As I was looking through the local paper this morning for my mother-in-law's weekly column, there was the bride's picture under a caption to the effect: local couple says, "I Do." I don't remember them saying, "I Do." What I heard was a lot of "I Will's." Now, I'm sure somewhere in the ceremony they did say "I Do," but it's the "I Will's" that I remember.

Maybe 35 years of marriage colors my hearing - 35 years of "in sickness and in health", "for richer, for poorer", the blessing of children and curse of teenagers, separations and wonderful homecomings (courtesy of the military). The "I Do" of 35 years ago may have sealed the contract, but it is the "I Will's" that have sustained it and enabled two strong-willed people become closer to one.

Marriage is God's creation and God's plan. He is actively involved. It's really three contracts in one - the bride pledging her faithfulness to God; the groom, his commitment to God, and the bride and groom saying to one another that, on this day, "I Do," but, forever, "I Will."

(dedicated to Laura and Ryan)