Usually, the hello precedes the goodbye. I have noticed as a parent that after the first joyous hello of birth though, it seems to get flipped around with goodbye preceding hello. Raising kids is a series of natural goodbyes as our progeny get older and more independent. Many of these we welcome with glee. Saying goodbye to nighttime feedings and hello to sleep is wondrous. Saying goodbye to a stroller and hello to someone who walks with reliability is also a natural and wonderful change, and while it is nerve wracking, saying goodbye to endless drives to soccer and swim practice because your darling is now driving himself is also hello to a less rushed evening.
Some goodbyes are harder. The moving-out-of-the-house phase is more drawn out and bittersweet than say, moving from a crib to a big kid bed. And whether done with a quick swipe of a Band-Aid or in a series of goings and returnings for school breaks, it is a continuum of goodbyes and hellos that, surprisingly, become less sharp-edged over time.
The first goodbye is a doozy. Leaving my son in Bismarck, North Dakota, resulted in so many tears I was nearly dehydrated. Since then, he has returned and left multiple times. It’s always sad saying goodbye but saying hello to the man he is growing into has been a delight. Watching him navigate college and plan for his future is exciting for all of us.
This morning I counted 15 pairs of shoes by my front door and noticed that two of them belong to my daughter, who left for a semester in Rome this past weekend. I woke up at 5 a.m. on Saturday morning to say goodbye to her and hello to her great adventure (as well as a few items she failed to put away).
It’s not unlike the change we experience in our faith life as we venture closer to God. My office here at the Archdiocese of Milwaukee is offering Base Camp, an opportunity to “ascend to the heights of holiness” for young adults this winter. While not a young adult myself, by virtue of working for the New Evangelization Office, I get to participate.
I’m just a couple weeks into this and so far I’ve said goodbye to sleeping in and hello to waking up earlier to pray. I’ve said goodbye to social media and hello to reading. I’ve said goodbye to telling myself (and God) that I really need to start praying more regularly and hello to a regular time of Scripture and coffee. I’ve said hello to hearing his quiet but powerful voice that my noisy days tended to drown out. I’m saying hello to a sense of interior peacefulness that is deeply needed. God helps us say goodbye to sinfulness and hello to a deeper life of truth and beauty with him.
The goodbyes in life are sometimes hard and, as a sometimes sentimental woman, I fall into the trap of dwelling on them. But what Jesus has taught me is that goodbyes are followed by hellos, and the hellos are often different, unexpected and exciting because:
“I know well the plans I have in mind for you, plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
The hellos that come from God are always good.
Admittedly, I’m a little weirded out that my daughter is half a world away, but the hello of this adventure for her and the stories she will regale us with and the hello of witnessing her further develop into an amazing young woman is worth the momentary goodbye. Twenty years ago, that little baby, born four weeks early, spent her first day in an incubator trying to get warm. Now, she’s exploring Rome. Goodbyes and hellos. It’s a beautiful thing.