Monday, May 19, 2014
I was leaning on the railing of deck 8 yesterday looking down at the dock. A crowd of Mercy Shippers had gathered to say goodbye to a departing crew member; hugs all around and arms waving until the land cruiser was no longer in sight (probably a fair number of leaky eyes as well but I was too far away to be certain). A crew member leaning on the railing just a few feet down stirred me from my reverie. He had arrived a couple of weeks ago he said and asked how long I had been on the ship for.
“Seven years”, I replied.
“Does it get any easier”, he inquired, “saying goodbye to people?”
“No. No, it doesn’t”, was my immediate and definitive reply.
Xavier ran up at that moment, "Daaaaaad, you said you'd take me inside" - so I did. Had our conversation continued I’m sure I would have told the new guy about how it is still worth it to develop relationships and touched on a number of the joys of living in this community, and those things are true. But the conversation didn’t continue and I’ve been mulling over my knee-jerk, unfiltered response to him: “No. No it doesn’t”.
Saying goodbye becomes familiar. You learn to accept it. Perhaps to a degree you even become calloused to it. Some simply stop doing it all together, avoiding goodbye parties and send-offs on the dock. Others regrettably choose to not build relationships because it hurts less to say goodbye to those you don’t really know.
But it doesn’t get any easier. Not even a little bit.
Already in the past few weeks some friends and good acquaintances have left. In the coming days and weeks some best friends are leaving. And my heart hurts. If I think about it too much my throat gets tight and my eyes get shiny. I’m not angry. I don’t feel abandoned or not cared about. I rejoice in their decisions to follow God’s call for the next season of their lives. They will go with my blessing and love, and with Dara’s as well.
I write these words as a means of expressing how much they mean to me – to us – and also to strip the candy-coating off of saying goodbye. It sucks. That doesn’t mean that it’s bad, or that we should avoid it, or that relationships aren’t worth it. But it still sucks. And no, it doesn’t get any easier.