Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
I’ve never been good at saying proper goodbyes. I didn’t have a formal going away party when I moved to DC, I didn’t inform my colleagues when I was leaving the company, and I have a habit of catching an uber and dipping without notice when crowds get too large. At an early age, I was taught the significance of hellos – look everyone in the eye, introduce yourself to new people, give your relatives a hug and a kiss, etc. However, when it came to goodbyes the standards loosened. It could be that goodbyes got lost in the chaos of the present – we’re busy, we forget, or some other circumstance occurs that soaks up our attention. It could also be due to goodbyes lacking the novelty of seeing someone and the assumption that we’re going to see the other person again. But what happens if we don’t? Who teaches us how to say goodbye….forever?
I remember my 10th grade PE teacher talking about the prevalence of death in his life now that he was in his 50’s. He was coming to grips with his own mortality as the cadence of the funerals he attended became frequent. They say after a certain age, you no longer look forward to birthdays because you’re reminded of your own fragility and of those who are no longer around to celebrate with you. In the cyclical nature of lifetime celebrations death is the final hoorah. The cycle consist of births, birthday parties, graduations, weddings, baby showers, and lastly, funerals. You would think that the inevitability of death and the public nature of obituaries and funerals would allow us to come to terms with it easier.
Until my early 20’s death was something fairly foreign to me, it never impacted anyone that was close to me, or close to home. Now, I feel as if it trolls me, I worry something has happened to a loved one whenever I get too many calls in a row or when I see something on the news or circulating on Twitter. It feels as if death chooses its target as carelessly as spinning a globe and throwing a dart.
My mind often wanders to the friends and family members that have passed away. I find myself scrolling through old text messages, photos, replaying old conversations in my head – doing what I can to keep the memories from fading and prevent them from being a figment of my past. Nobody teaches you how to say goodbye or how to become comfortable with voids that can’t be filled. Death terrifies me, it almost paralyzes me. I can’t do hospitals and I’m always in the back of the room at funerals. I just pray that one day I don’t look around and feel that I’m only in the presence of ghosts. I don’t want to be left to pick up all the pieces.