To part ways with that which you love — whether a friend, a partner, a sentimental item, a past self, or a community — is not an easy act. Many of us have been told that “leaving” is not “the Christian way”. As a result, we may have found ourselves at times bound to unhealthy (ideas of) relationships, expectations, and thoughts about who we should be.
But as human beings, our linear experience of time and space limits the capacity of our hearts. We might end a relationship because we’ve outgrown what the other might be able to accommodate or provide for us, or because we can’t be in the relationship if we wish to become who we want to be. While the Christian doctrine of the imago Dei affirms each person’s inherent dignity and worth, this doctrine also affirms my own inherent dignity and worth — I am a sacred being as others are sacred beings. In this tension between “loving your neighbor as yourself”, what does it mean to love “yourself” as you love the one whom you are leaving? Can one leave well?
The ebb and flow of hello and goodbye is one that my soul loves. It is like a paper airplane: in order for it to fly, I must allow it to slip through my fingers. As my hand opens, I am blessing it as it leaves, hoping it will fly well and that its journey might end well. For me, saying goodbye is a practice that honors what we once had, enabling me to then greet the future (and the future of the one I’m leaving) with gratitude and humility. As limited human beings, we are forced to choose between loves because we cannot hold it all and we make our choices in hopes for something better, something more than what we’ve known.
While some goodbyes are frivolous and careless, others hold meaning far too large and deep for words — these are the ones that are worth cherishing. Our hope for this issue is that the word “goodbye” might be seen not merely as sad but also as freeing — a word that can hold love, gentleness, peace, and goodness even amidst sorrow and ache. The stories within this issue posit that goodbyes can be life-giving, good for the one who leaves and the one(s) who feel left behind. These stories are also gifts of courage and self-discovery and an invitation toward what it means to love both neighbor and self in life-giving ways.
May you find freedom, peace, and courage as you share in these stories. May you be reminded to behold and honor the sacredness that you bear, too. And may you find language rich and light for your own farewells.