“We build on foundations we did not lay.
We warm ourselves at fires we did not light.
We sit in the shade of trees we did not plant.
We drink from wells we did not dig.
We profit from persons we did not know.
We are ever bound in community."

Rev. Peter Raible (paraphrased from Deuteronomy 6:10-12)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Day 25 of Spiritual Practices and Reflections: The Practice of a Good Goodbye

This morning, I'm thinking about the spiritual practice of saying goodbye (and related to it, the practice of saying hello).

If you're a part of the First Universalist faith community, you know that our Associate Minister, Rev. Kate Tucker (who has served First Universalist for 15 years), will be completing her ministry with us in June. Her leaving is a significant transition in the life of our congregation, a significant "goodbye" that we'll saying together. 

And as we're saying goodbye to Kate, we'll be looking forward to August 1, as we prepare to welcome the Rev. Jennifer Crow (and her family) as our new Minister of Program Life. (Jen Crow will have oversight of the Program Life of the Church, including responsibility for Congregational Care. Some of her portfolio will be the same as Kate's, but with an overall focus on Program Life and Unitarian Universalist Faith Formation in the church.)  

All of this has got me thinking. Done well, goodbyes can be part of a meaningful spiritual practice. A good goodbye, although hard and perhaps similar to a miniature "death," can help us stop and see the whole of what we’ve experienced, lifting to the surface what’s been important and meaningful, how the relationship has touched and changed us. A good goodbye gives us the chance to name the joy and gratitude (or even shared heartbreak) we've experienced - to reflect upon and name what we've learned and appreciated because of the relationship.

Learning how to do endings well, in a meaningful, healthy way (whatever the ending may be: the loss of a dream, moving to a new house, leaving a job, losing a favorite pet, saying goodbye to children leaving for college, the death of a loved one), helps prepare us for the ultimate ending - our own death. In some sense, every goodbye - and how well we do it - is a practice run before our own final goodbye. 

It makes me think we should practice saying goodbye more often – monthly, weekly, daily - to the things and people we love. Like in the children's story, “Goodnight, Moon,” when we go to bed, we should say goodnight and goodbye to everything in the room, and everything we love - because there’s no guarantee of a new day.

Thus, a heartfelt, loving goodbye, for the day we’ve had, for the people we’ve spent time with, for whatever it might be, gives us room to let go – and then to greet the new day, the new job, the new house, whatever it is, with a friendly “Hello.” 

Done well, goodbyes and hellos put us directly in touch with our own mortality and the truth that all life is change - a dance of gently holding on, gently letting go, gently holding on, gently letting go. As the poet Mary Oliver says, “To live in this world you must be able to do three things: “To love what is mortal; to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it; And, when the times comes to let it go, to let it go.” 

I'm sad that Kate is leaving; she has been an incredible colleague to work with. I've been touched and shaped by her deep and playful spirit. I am grateful she has faithfully served First Universalist for 15 years, and that we've been able to work together for three of those years. I am excited for her as she begins to imagine what the next chapters of her life might look like. And I'm looking forward to saying "Hello" to Jen Crow in August, as she and I begin our new ministry together, serving the First Universalist Universalist.     

I'm wondering: What are you saying goodbye to in your life? How well do you "do" goodbyes? What makes a goodbye good for you? What are you learning about the goodbye process? And finally, what are you saying hello to in your life?  

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Terrific post! Thoughtful, provacative and helpful!