“It is true that those we meet can change us,
sometimes so profoundly that we are not the same afterwards,
even unto our names.”
― Yann Martel, Life of Pi
And so she was for me.
I am readying for a goodbye.
In less than two weeks’ time, I will walk into a room, and swallow my life whole. I will stop to breathe, to locate that place where my wrist extends to aching arms. I will sit down next to a woman who has been constant and a keeper of my stories, who holds the pieces of me and creates space to climb upon a life raft that lets me rest and fill lungs full again, while swimming and sailing to the other side. I will let myself soak in every detail of that room, and her face, so it can live with me for as long as I need, which is forever. I will say thank-you, and I will say I could not be here without you, and I will say this. This here. This is what I wanted. This goodbye.
I’ve never had one. And thank you, for being here with me, even unto and perhaps most especially right here within, goodbye.
Leaving is its own animal, different than ending or completion of a creation.
(farewell. god speed. because it must be so.)
Running away and running to save your life and learning all the skills required to slip out quiet in the night unnoticed.
Keeping a body in a place even though you’re already a long time gone, and so the dull numb of absence comes to take up all the space in the barren cramped room.
Watching as the one you once loved has already left through decisions that break things beyond repair and yet they stay and they stay and they say they will forever stay and so finally you call it yourself, send the papers and pack your things, or ask them to move out and you reclaim your space again, drinking wine on the back steps while it rains July storms and the sky feels like freedom or forgiveness, and you wear the name leaver in the stories of others and do not stay around in the aftermath long enough to ever even correct them, as if that were even possible.
Knowing the end of a thing is coming and not being able to bear the devastation and so finding all the ways of leaving before leaving, because staying for completion would kill the part of you still beating breaths.
Lighting matches and burning buildings and bridges, not ever looking back. Because you needed to get the hell out of there, and there was no time to waste.
“I suppose in the end, the whole of life becomes an act of letting go,
but what always hurts the most is not taking a moment to say goodbye.”
― Yann Martel, Life of Pi
These are leavings. I’ve done them all.
And none of them are goodbye.
There is a weight carried in not ever having really had one, the good goodbye where love is lived and the ache of an ending and losing has space to be seen and said and the love is large enough and the presence spacious enough to hold this, hold the whole. This never having had this, has been I now know, its own wound in the wearing down of so many leavings in a lifetime.
Because how we honor the humanity of one another matters.
How we end things matters.
How we loosen and let go matters.
The goodbye does not take away any part of the grief in the loss or make the ache an undone memory. Rather, it gives us back our memory and re-arranged self, all the parts and pieces that will never add up as understanding and only brush up against one another in gloriously inexplicable wonder.
This is its own true loving.
You were here.
I was here.
We are human.
We affect each other.
We mend. We tend to what cannot be healed and only held. We love. We learn. We play and we fight and we repair and we nourish. We un-cage what wants to be witnessed as that which once saved us and now lives under the collarbone half way hidden, forever ready. We become. We undo and unravel and we become homes for one another, make magnificent art.
Is there anything else so extraordinary?
“The world is not comprehensible, but it is embraceable:
through the embracing of one of its beings,”
- Martin Buber
I walked into the room twelve years ago, with an infant in my arms, and my own fire breathing heart and tangled in knots history of all the places harm can live in a body and all the ways we can know the impossible as possible. I walked into this room, which became a world which was a womb which we created, which gave me life. I could not have known what would happen, who I would be and become. How I would grow up. How I would know in my bones what cannot be integrated or even comprehended, and I would embrace it still. Embrace the world, through and in and with this being. How I would become fully human.
And now, in only a fistful of days, I will be entering into an ending.
This is not a tragedy. This is not a trauma. This is not a severed sudden loss that makes it impossible to go on into the living. This is goodbye.
I will say good-bye in the turning over of all those mornings when I brought my coffee and stared into the unknown, and all the words spoken that broke my own rules and washed my skin in the act of un-naming, and all the ways of silence that healed what can never be made whole.
I will say good-bye the way we sometimes submerge our whole face into warm sheets or lilacs in late May, to breathe deep something irreplaceable as it washes over everything. I will say goodbye the way we linger over last pages, not wanting the story to end. The way I bite my bottom lip until mourning smashes me open. The way light sometimes comes right before dusk and spills over brick and stone buildings, rests there suspended for those moments as if the sky was taking every longing you’d ever had into her expanse. The way my once young body always wanted, in heaves and strong legs and loud lungs and honesty.
I will say good-bye the way we hold vigil through the night, and the way we pound bodies against what bruises unseen, and the way it is sometimes to get into the car and drive open roads for hours and hours and hours, into the arms of your own life.
If there are open doors of entrances and hellos welcoming you with waiting arms, may you run to them, embrace them richly and wildly, collapse into them, grow strong in them.
If there is deep love and intimacy in your people, the faces of those you hold close and find home within, may it continue to nurture and nourish, enliven and awaken, for all your days.
If there is a goodbye on your threshold inviting you to the ending, of a love or work or way of being, what you once called home now known as a place where the bed is too tight to hold the all of you, or one who was teacher and gatekeeper is now leaving because it is time to leave and so you are standing there rocked with waves of griefs while she looks you in the eyes and points to your arm and says “the key is already and always yours,” may the goodbye be fierce with reality, holy and inexplicably sweet, a dwelling place where you might hold your own heart beating. Even in the good-bye, even especially in the goodbye, staying here, with yourself, love after love, breath by breath by breath.
* Photography by Stacy De La Rosa