Maybe Boyz II Men were onto something.
Actually we know they were - as they tapped into young, hopeful love and heartbreak of masses in the 90’s. Though they didn’t write it, this a cappella take on the song ‘It’s so hard to say goodbye to yesterday’ resonated deeply with listeners propelling it to #1 on the Billboard charts.
For whatever reason, a few days ago I found myself humming this song as I thought about the process of moving on. It’s title and chorus, topped with the longing put forth by the verses, randomly struck me in a very profound way, that - saying goodbye is deeply important both for the giver and the receiver.
We have all heard stories or experienced firsthand the wish for different last words as a loved one passed away. We know of hanging onto a past relationship far too long due to a lack of closure; and we know how the hurtful words from a superior can feel when transitioning from a job. Those parting words can either help to propel us into what’s next in full manner, or send us into a tailspin of what ifs.
There is a reason why we call them good-byes and fare-wells.
There is a reason why parting well is a blessing we give to one another.
There is a reason why in the Church, a service ends in a benediction.
A posture of blessing, of sending, has been with us from the beginning. The Creator again and again tells His creation to go ‘be fruitful and multiply’… and I would argue that Jesus even echoes this after His encounters with individuals–He leaves people with ‘Go and live well’ (my paraphrase).
Then, there is this well-known blessing we received from our Jewish sisters and brothers out of Numbers:
“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”
In this, as we depart, we remind one another of God’s presence in the world, in our lives and the peace that is promised through that.
We are constantly invited to bless each other, even in how we depart.
Yet having to say goodbye is hard, isn’t it? At it’s most raw it forces us be vulnerable - to say to another that without them here things will be different - but that in some mystical way we go with them for both of us have been changed through our time together. Our farewells have the ability to reaffirm and acknowledge an individual, a people, a group - possibly for the first time. Our goodbyes have the power to remind another that they are known and that they are not alone.
So let us not rob another of a goodbye, let us allow each other to say the beautifully difficult things to each other. For maybe if we started to depart more intentionally, it might allow us to finally say goodbye to yesterday… and all that we hang on to.
Adam Lorenz is a rider, a thinker, and a lifer. His passion and belief in the power of young people has led him to work with high school and emerging adults for the past 8 years and is currently serving as the Youth Minister at Grace Episcopal Church in Grand Rapids, MI. He is nearing the completion of his Master of Divinity at Western Theological Seminary and writes at www.adamlorenz.net. Follow his daily thoughts on Twitter at @adamlorenz.