The Washington Times-Herald

Columns

February 17, 2012

Saying 'goodbye' is never easy

WASHINGTON — Why is it so difficult to say the word “goodbye?”  Sometimes, we say “so long” or “see you later” or maybe just “see-ya,”  or we shorten the word to “bye.”

One of the first words a baby learns is bye or bye-bye and that may bring tears as they learn that it means leaving Grandma’s house or someplace else they enjoy.

We might substitute a word for goodbye with the same meaning in another language, as in “arrivederci!” Some languages besides English, have several words or phrases that serve the same purpose. “Hasta la vista,” “hasta luego,” and h”asta la proxima”, as well as “adios” come to mind.

There are times we just don’t want to say goodbye, thinking it might be permanent as when a friend moves away. Goodbye never has to be permanent though in this era because of the ease of keeping in touch via the internet, with email, social networking sites, cell phones and texting. You never have to say goodbye with finality.

Other times, the choice is taken from us.

We recently said a final goodbye to my father-in-law when he passed away. He had dementia for several years, his memory gradually fading until he would have forgotten even to eat if those taking care of him did not remind him.

When we visited he was happy to see us but he didn’t recognize us anymore. When we said “Bye, Dad,” he just mumbled something, not remembering what we said then anymore than he knew what, “Hi, Dad, how are ya?” meant.

Saying a final goodbye is not any easier when it is somewhat expected. We knew Dad was getting worse. His body was becoming more feeble every time we saw him, the disease taking over his body as well as his mind.

The son and daughter-in-law who were his caregivers experienced it in an even more painful way because they lived with him and took care of his needs.

 He had become nearly like an toddler, someone who had to be watched constantly so he did not fall or bump into something or use something inappropriately.

Anyone who has a loved one with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia knows what I’m talking about. It’s hard to watch a loved one dwindle in mind AND body.

But, the fact that he no longer recognized any of his family or friends didn’t matter when we wanted to see him the strong man we remember, who never saw a stranger, always tried to please his wife and was there anytime a neighbor or family member needed him.

We still wanted to visit whenever we could, even if our visit was forgotten as soon as he turned in another direction. We laughed when he called a dog a horse, or a cat a dog or even “that thing over there.” We found amusement in his words when he called his youngest son, “the  main one.”

The youngest son (along with his wife) had become “the main one” — the one who was with him day and night, who helped him get up and go to bed, the one who saw that he was dressed appropriately and ate when he needed, the one who took him outside in good weather and made sure the sun didn’t shine too hotly on his bare head. It brought a smile to our lips but it was right-on in truth.

Yes, we said goodbye to Dad a few weeks ago, but it is still not truly final.

Even though we will not see him or my mother-in-law or my own parents again on this earth, we have the assurance that we will see them again in the next life, along with our other loved ones who have preceded us on the journey to eternity.

•••

Cyndi Pratt doesn’t like saying “goodbye” and will often use “hasta-luego” or “see ya later” for her so-long phrase.  Until next time ...

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