On Saying Goodbye
I said goodbye to some dear friends today.
Rachel arrived at the church a year after I did—she was a seminary student, I was in the choir. After completing her placement, Rachel stayed on. For the past while, she’s been an Associate Priest. Her husband Leeman is a brilliant performer, a vibrant presence in Toronto’s geek community, and he also voiced Rodney in Coxwood History Fun Park.
Now they’re heading off to the US, where Rachel has secured a pretty amazing chaplaincy position. I am so incredibly proud of her.
And my friends are moving away.
During Rachel’s last homily, I got misty-eyed in the choir stalls, but I mostly kept it together until afterwards. Then the canon caught my eye and I dissolved into tears.
“That was such a beautiful funeral service,” he said.
The tears were a ball in my throat, and I couldn’t speak.
“She was absolutely the right person,” he continued.
See, Rachel organized and conducted my dad’s funeral. She commended the coffin to its gravesite. She prepped me for months before my confirmation. She’s my friend.
And yet, even as we kept making each other cry, there was a part of me that hung back, marvelling. Is this not wonderful?
Specifically, is it not wonderful that such communities can form? For myself, I entered both choir and church without any intention of staying. But I did. More than that, I formed relationships with these people. Yes, there was no dry eye in the parish hall, but is it not wonderful that we care enough about each other to cry like that? Is it not wonderful that all of us—imperfect, flawed, broken human beings that we are—can come together and form family? And finally, is it not wonderful that we can be so vulnerable—that we can bare our hearts, and not hide the tears, and actually say what we feel for each other?
This vulnerability comes from deep, abiding trust. Hearts are delicate things. It takes a lot of courage to expose them. It also takes a lot of faith—faith that the other party will treat your heart gently and not break it. Or almost worse, be indifferent to it. Like all matters of the heart, it’s a risk. So is it not wonderful when we find people who are willing to take that risk with us?
I did wonder, there in the parish hall, if these painful goodbyes are the price we pay for developing close relationships. Deeper tears for deeper joys?
But I’m not actually sure that’s the case. I don’t think it’s a price. I don’t think it’s a bargain we strike between hearts. Tears are not comeuppance or payment for joy. Rather, the tears and the joys come from the same place—that deep wellspring of love (however you want to define and contextualize “love”). Really, it’s all the same thing, arising from the same source. Which is why, while goodbyes are incredibly difficult—well, is this not wonderful? Is it not wonderful we had this time together? Is it not wonderful we care so much?
In any case, it’s not like anyone’s died. Social media is a wonderful tool. And honestly, the chances that we’ll all see each other at some convention are higher than not.
Best of luck, my friends. It has been wonderful to have these years together.
What I’m Listening to This Week
After leaving the reception, I ducked back into the nave for a moment to centre and recollect myself. From nowhere, this piece began playing in my head. I’d almost forgotten I knew it. It’s light, it’s gentle, and it is very self-explanatory. This. All of this.