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When Goodbye Is Forever

When Goodbye Is Forever

I didn’t know that I would be saying goodbye to my son for the last time. How could I have known? He was only 20 years old, still in the prime of life, still living in as safe a spot as any. There was no reason to assume, no reason to be concerned, no reason to even think that I might never see him again. Standing outside his college residence, we hugged and I said, as I always did, “I love you, Nick-o.” And I watched him walk away arm-in-arm with the love of his life.

A few weeks later, when the phone call came, I was broken-hearted, of course. I was devastated. But I was also thankful that we had parted on the best of terms. I was thankful that we had expressed love for one another and that our final words were affectionate rather than angry, that they were deliberate rather than careless. I was thankful that our sorrow was not compounded by regret.

A fact of life in this tragic world is that any parting may be our last. There are some who see it coming and who are able to bid farewell like Jacob to his sons—to speak to each of them, to bless them, and then to “draw up his feet into the bed and breathe his last and be gathered to his people” (Genesis 49:33). But there are as many who do not know that they are saying goodbye for the final time, who do not know that this parting is their last, who do not know that death will soon intervene. And surely this challenges us to make every parting a good parting.

If any goodbye may be final, then surely every goodbye should be loving. We should never part from those we love in a spirit of anger or bitterness, with sin unconfessed, frustrations unforgiven, or misunderstandings unresolved. Just as we must not be so complacent as to allow the sun to set on our anger, we must not allow sin to shadow our partings. That is true even if we anticipate they will be only brief and even if we anticipate we will soon be together again.

Just as we must not be so complacent as to allow the sun to set on our anger, we must not allow sin to shadow our partings.

Rather, we should say our goodbyes with thoughtfulness and warmth, in a spirit of encouragement and gentleness. We should make sure that every parting is a good parting, that we are careful with our words and affectionate with our actions. We should determine that if the words we speak are the last this person ever hears from our lips, they will be words of blessing. We should be certain that if these words are our final words, they will prove a fitting benediction for the relationship of a friend to a friend, the affection of a child for a mother or father, the love of a parent for a son or daughter. We should ensure we are saying farewell as if it is the last time because, at some point, the goodbye will be forever.

Inspired in part by J.R. Miller

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