I deal in hope : Carolyn R Scheidies

Blog Saying goodbye not a one-step process

Saying goodbye to a loved one may seem like something we can capture like a snapshot in our memories. We know the last time we saw or spoke to that person. We may even be present when our loved one takes that last breath. But there is so much more to death than a simple goodbye.

When we lost my husband Keith’s dad earlier this year in the midst of Covid-19, and though the virus wasn’t the cause of his death, it did change the situation. When he went to the hospital the family could not be with him to encourage, hug or pray with him. At least one family member could be there–until he chose Comfort Care rather than aggressive care. It meant family could be with him.

It meant our two children who’d come for a visit with our daughter’s two little ones were able to see their grandfather one last time. They didn’t know how quickly he would be gone, but knew since they did not live here, they probably wouldn’t see him again. He was gone a day later. A goodbye. A memory.

Shock turned into planning the funeral, which we were able to hold in his church and with guests–family and friends who loved him. We filed by the casket, stopping, swallowing hard and wondering how could a fall so quickly deteriorate to this? Yet there we were, suffering and encouraging each other at the same time. We said our face-to-face goodbye.

After the service, we said goodbye once more at the cemetery where he was laid to rest four years after the death of his wife, my husband’s mother. We heard the pastor’s words of comfort, heard the 21-gun-salute to a former WWII veteran. As the oldest sibling, Keith who received the flag was overwhelmed and honored. Another goodbye, but goodbyes do not end with a funeral.

Instead it has become a new chapter of grieving and goodbye’s as the siblings deal with a lifetime lived well. I lost my dad to a heart attack in 1988. He’d been my dad since my birth in 1950. He left a hole in my life and heart. But I also had another father I respected and was glad to share Keith’s dad for the next 32 years. I’d rather have Jiggs back than his inheritance. But that was not to be, God called him home and I am sure he would not wish to return. It was a goodbye for who knows how long.

But one of the hardest goodbyes was getting together with family to go through Dad’s things left in his home. He hadn’t changed much of anything after Keith’s mom died in 2016, so we had her as well as Dad’s material possessions to go through.

Before going to Minden, I’d asked our kids what they wanted from the house. Chris and his children wanted books. I went through boxes and boxes of books, pulling out those our family would enjoy or appreciate. I got recipes for Chris, an amateur chef. It was so hard. No one fought. What needed to be saved simply needed to go to some family member. Saying yes to another item and packing it away seemed like another goodbye.

Before long what was left in the house would be turned over to the auctioneer. Soon the house that rang with so much laughter from family get-togethers would also be gone. Death isn’t one goodbye. It is a series of goodbyes. Maybe we need the time in order to grieve. All I know is that I am thankful for life today–even if that means I’ll be saying goodbye again and again as something comes to mind and grief overwhelms. It happened with my folks and still, though less often now, with my brother who died in 2019.

Through it all, I can say goodbye because I know God’s comfort and care through His Word, prayer and through the love of family and friends. Though I know grieving has not ended, I am thankful for today, for the memories and for the knowledge that this life is not all there is.

© 2020 Carolyn R Scheidies

Kearney Hub Column 10/19/2020

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