Seniors: How to Say Goodbye from Far Away

Mar 7th, 2011 | By | Category: Senior Moments Blog

At Christmas last year, there came a greeting card and a short note from a dear and abiding friend.  She had lived in the same community with us, was a part of the church, and developed into a steadfast supporter. 

I tucked the card and note in a place where I could be reminded to reply and to chat.  Before that happened, however, news came of her death.  She was in her eighties, so it needn’t have been a surprise.  She was not experiencing any life threatening illnesses, but she simply passed away. 

Now no longer is it possible to say goodbye, from far away.  She had moved from Arizona to Missouri, her home state.  Family and long time friends reside there.  She had, it seems, done as many do.  She had gone home to die. 

The real struggle in this is not so much her death, but my tardiness.  How easily it happens  that someone special to us slips away.  How common it is for us to assume that there will be another day.  And then, the sad news comes.  You can’t say hello or goodbye to that person any more.  You had your chance and you  let it slip through your net of things to do.

Now, confronted with the loneliness that inevitably comes, you begin asking how can we say goodbye, when we are so far away. 

One way is to write a letter to that dear soul and saint, even though she is no longer here.  One way is to let her know, in spirit,  how precious she was in your life.  One way is to say “I wish I could have been there to hold your hand.”

Another way is to communicate with those that were especially close to her.  Let them know the particular affection in which she was held.  Their spirits may be buoyed, reinforced certainly, to hear from someone who takes the time to give her accolades, even after her life has closed. 

A third way, not often enough done, is to remember her with some sort of memorial to a church, an organization, some institution that she found important and supported herself. 

Yet another way is to remind yourself that you will not delay letting someone know that you need to tell them goodbye.  That, because of life’s necessary circumstances, distance, timing, opportunity, you may not have the chance again.  Perhaps this is the most important lesson.  To discover mortality as a given and recognize the nudgings that come our way so that we put ourselves in a place to be quick to say good bye is a lesson in living and dying.

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