Thursday, May 06, 2010

How Do You Say Good-bye?

It's May, and I've been thinking about this post for several weeks now; perhaps even months.  Our third daughter, Lydia, is about to graduate high school and as usual I can't help but reflect a bit on this life altering event.  It happens to me as each child reaches this milestone in life - I have this almost overwhelming mixture of feelings.
There are feelings of pride in the wonderful young adult they've become, feelings of uncertainty as I wonder if 18 years were really enough time to teach them everything they needed to learn from me, and last but certainly not least - feelings of loss.  The loss of childhood and knowing that our family will once again never quite be the same.

I know it is a necessary "loss."  No one wants their child to remain child-like for a lifetime, living in their home and dependent upon them for the rest of their lives.  And yet any parent who raises a child to adulthood knows the feeling - this feeling that says, "Some aspect of your life is now over, never to return."  I realize that she's not moving away forever.  She'll come home for a weekend visit now and then; she'll be around during most holidays; she'll most likely even be back for weeks at a time during summer break.  But it will be different.

I won't wake up each morning to her cheery disposition; I won't hear all of her humorous 'blonde" moments; she won't be available at a moment's notice when I holler, "Lydia - I could use some help!"  Basically - she will now be a "visitor" more often than not...that is the cause of these feelings of loss that I'm experiencing.

This time, however, there are feelings that I've never experienced before - at least, not quite like this.  Feelings of loss and grief for her sake, and not knowing exactly how to help her deal with it.  Perhaps no one is ever really prepared to deal with it.  What is this event, this obstacle that I so desperately want to spare my child from enduring?  A certain good-bye that will need spoken very soon - a good-bye that will be one of the hardest of her lifetime.

Yes, she'll have the normal "good-byes" that each high school senior experiences - farewell to those favorite teachers and wonderful friends that have shared her life during the past few years, and emotional partings from sisters who are living their own life adventures in other states and countries.
Those all pale in comparison, however.  There is one good-bye that will very literally be a life-long farewell.  No weekend visits; no get-togethers over spring break; not even Facebook chats, text messages or phone calls lasting into the wee hours of the night.

Her life-long friend, Amanda, has been battling cancer for over three years now.  And although she is the toughest, most positive and steadfast fighter we've ever known...she is about to lose the fight.  Everyone who knows Amanda has no doubt that she's ultimately winning the battle, with all the saints and angels of heaven waiting to celebrate the victory with her. (I Cor. 15:55)  But those of us whose lives she's touched here on earth will be feeling a life-long loss.

Amanda and Lydia are closer than best friends, if that's possible.  I've never seen two people that share the kind of bond that these two girls share.

I could show you stacks of photos from their toddler years on up of these girls and all of their exuberance, fun and adventures.  Playing dress-up; being pirates or princesses, phantoms or fairies.  Looking lovely in their formal dresses, or unrecognizable in layers of mud.  Wearing hats or swords or jeans with holes in them or clown makeup or costumes from another century...depending on what mood they're in.
Paddling a canoe and toting a back-pack nearly as big as themselves.  Setting up a tent, blowing bubbles, riding a zip-line and making sand castles.  Ice skating, horseback riding, writing their names with sparklers and cuddling furry baby animals.  Playing pranks on sisters, whispering secrets that no one will ever know, and dreaming of castles and Prince Charming.

After all of that - after this lifetime of sharing laughter and heartache, dreams and realities, aspirations and disappointments - how do you say good-bye? 

Lydia had a song choice to make recently - a song to go along with her senior slide show.  A slide show summing up her first 18 years of life.  It ended up being a slide show with more pictures of her with Amanda than anyone else.  The song she chose to go with it is just a song from a movie soundtrack.  Yet, how appropriate for these girls who collect old LP albums of movie soundtracks, and who own CD's and mP3 players full of movie music.  The song, by Regina Spektor, is simply called "The Call"...and yet it somehow, in it's simplicity, begins to answer the question - how to say good-bye.
The last several lines of the song go like this:

Just because everything's changing, doesn't mean it's
Never been this way before.
All you can do is try to know who your friends are
As you head off to the war.
Pick a star on the dark horizon and
Follow the light.
You'll come back when it's over.
No need to say good-bye.
You'll come back when it's over.
No need to say good-bye....
Now we're back to the beginning,
It's just a feeling and no one knows yet.
But just because they can't feel it too
Doesn't mean that you have to forget.
Let your memories grow stronger and stronger,
'Til they're before your eyes.
You'll come back, when they call you,
No need to say good-bye.
You'll come back, when they call you,
No need to say good-bye.

Dearest little Lydia...I can't take away your pain - these harsh realities that an 18-year-old should not have to deal with.  But I do see some comforting truths in your song....

Yes - everything is changing, even to the point of feeling like a war is raging.  Unfortunately, that is life, and generations of people before you have dealt with the ecstasy and devastation that this life dishes out.  The horizon may look dark at the moment, but your friendship with Amanda has been, and will always be, a bright spot, a shining star in your life.  Amanda is an amazing gift and blessing in your life.  Few people ever have the opportunity to experience a friendship so rich.  Your memories are priceless gifts of that friendship.  Keep them "before your eyes," so that when your life is full of new friends who never had the opportunity to know Amanda, you can keep her memory strong and alive within you, and within them, by telling your stories.

Last but not least, some day there will be a new beginning..."you'll come back" to Amanda and your friendship will begin anew, in that eternal home that we're all longing for, that home of no more tears, pain or sorrow.  The only place where friendships are eternal, and where there truly is "no need to say good-bye," ever again.