Of Partings and New Years

December 27, 2007

Thank you again to Prof. Ted Te for sharing this to us. Very timely as we struggle to find words to say farewell to the old year and well, other goodbyes we stubbornly refuse to make (again in boldface are words we would have highlighted on paper):
Saying Goodbye
James F. Donelan, S.J.

Goodbyes have always been an inspiration to poets, and what has caught their poetic fancy most is the contradictory nature of the experience. Emily Dickinson says partings are all we know of Heaven, and all we need of Hell. Shakespeare’s Romeo puts it simpler: Partings, he says, are such sweet sorrows. We smile through our tears and cry through our laughter.

But goodbyes are more than sentimental moments. They are one of nature’s sacraments–sacraments in that they involve a mystery, an insight into the heart of things. there is a mystery involved in going away, in that simple experience of saying goodbye that touches each one of us, sometimes lightly, sometimes heavily.

Goodbyes reveal something about the meaning of our lives, the great tides that rise and fall, the joys and sorrows that inundate our hearts at different moments of our lives. We may hate goodbyes but we cannot avoid them because they put us in touch with something fundamental about ourselves–our rootedness in time and place.

Going away reminds us of our uniqueness, our identity, and how it depends on certain people. Our hearts have many anchors, but when the great tides call us to catch the wind and sail away, we will be missing life itself if we fail to go.

True, it is hard to say farewell, especially the milestone goodbyes of our life–leaving home, leaving country. But part of maturity lies in realizing that there is no genuine growth in life that doesn’t gather us together and lead us to a point where we pull apart to find out who we are and what we must do with our lives. It is hard especially for parents to allow those we love their private places to be sad and to cry, to be lonely, to experience sorrow and defeat. Yet, going away is our daily spiritual bread. If we don’t recognize that, then we haven’t completely grown up.

The great secret, of course, that lies at the heart of the mystery is that saying goodbye or allowing others to be free to do so never truly separates us from what we have known and loved and shared. We can lose material things by separation, but absence only increases love.

The feeling we experience when we say goodbye adds to, rather than takes away from, our experience of life. And because we have had the courage to travel deep into love’s mystery of going away, we can one day celebrate the joy of coming together again. And so life goes on, strengthened and encouraged by the hope and promise of reunion.



  1. I wanted to say good bye to a friend one time, but time did not give me any chance to say so. And, not only was there no time to do it. I am not even sure if I can say my good byes as eloquently as possible. I have never read a book that explained how does one acquire the courage to say it when the right time comes. Teach me teacher! I want to bade good bye to a former friend who considered me a nemesis!

  2. Hello ading. Hey, you have been teaching me more the past months a… Sorry there, I, too, have issues with goodbyes. Mine are too unrefined. Anyway, I don’t know if this would be of any help but let us let things be. Perhaps, someday we’ll realize that there really was no need for goodbyes.

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