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    Tuesday, March 31, 2020

    Today I am grieving goodbyes. 

    Goodbyes are never easy. But I think there is a gift in goodbyes, something comforting, a bitter sweetness in the closure and finality. But the goodbyes that unsettle you are those that are either unspoken or unknown. The goodbyes that had the original intent of “see you later” or “see you soon.” 

    Unfortunately, unsaid goodbyes tend to be common as a teacher, especially for me as an ESL teacher in a low-income school. My students are always in transit, picking up suddenly and switching schools or unexpectedly having to return to their home country. These transitions are difficult because I hate to see my students go. 

    The worst goodbyes are unexpected deaths. This past December, Stephen, a student of mine, passed away. His life was gone too soon for his earthly family and friends. I would have never imagined the horrors that would face him that very Friday night as I said “Have a great weekend! See you Monday!” I never did see him on Monday. Or any Mondays after that. But the comfort I draw is that because Stephen was a strong believer and proclaimer of Jesus Christ, I know one day I will see him again in Heaven.

    The unspoken goodbyes I am processing through now are those of my students, specifically my seniors. The thought of possibly never seeing them bound down the halls with their cheerful hellos (ok or the more realistic “I’m too cool” head nods and slight smiles) hurts my heart. I miss them. I want to see them soon. I already struggle with the planned goodbyes that graduation brings, but to have this unexpected separation prematurely? Heartbreaking. (As of now, we are still planning to resume school later this semester.)

    My heart was not prepared for these goodbyes. 

    I think of the disciples and followers of Jesus. Jesus tried to prepare them ahead of time, but their hearts did not understand. And then, the sudden arrest, trial, and crucifixion. No goodbyes. For Peter, a parting of denial and guilt (we know what he did not know - of the resurrection).  As for the others, they ran away in fear and shame. I am sure the dark days before the resurrected Jesus appeared to them were days of grief and intense sorrow at this ripping away of their Lord and Savior. At Christ’s ascension, this marked goodbye was life changing for the disciples. Peter was emboldened and became the rock on which the Church was built. His other disciples continued His ministry and went on to write letters and spread the Gospel.

    I think of my students. I wish our last day together could have been different. I would give them each a hug, tell them to wash their hands, and assure them that it is going to be ok. We would laugh about the fun things that have happened this year and express concerns and fears about what may come. Instead of hurrying off to another weekend, we would linger a bit longer before saying goodbye. Adiós. Bidāẏa. ثانوي. 

    When life returns to normal after this virus, I don’t want to live in fear of “what if this is the last goodbye?” Instead, I want to give thanks to God every day for the mercies anew, for another sunrise that brings opportunity, and for the beautiful souls surrounding me each day. The hellos and embraces will be so much sweeter since we have tasted of the painful goodbyes.

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