What Happens When We Don’t Get a Goodbye?

Image by Alex Solis


It may be the age I am at, but I am taking notice that life seems to be speeding up a bit.  The perspective of seeing kids growing, some days going as slow as molasses and other days you get this big smack to the face that realizes a once 8 pound 8 oz baby now is both taller and weighs more than you.  Perspective grows further into the other spectrum though, it opens up an abyss into the world of death as well.

Just like when I was pregnant, I noticed all the other pregnant people in my general vicinity, now I see my peers, people my own age begin to face death more frequently than we have in our adult journey thus far.

There is nothing I regret surrounding my moms death.  My dad’s death is another story, but I have mostly relinquished my feelings towards that story.

My aunty, she is brilliant.  She is articulate, intelligent, pro-active, beautiful, giving and has taught me a wealth of things over the past 43 years.  In fact, I am named after her and her twin sisters, my middle names Faith and Joy.  Two women I can say, that have impacted my life like no others.

Today I got an email from her with a Ted Talk Titled A Heroic Narrative for Death by Amanda Bennett.  To be honest I’m not really a Ted Talk kinda girl.  (Except for when it comes to Brené Brown.)  But this came from my Aunty, so it came with some credibility.

After I watched the Ted Talk and read her brief email, I began to think about a time in my life where I helped lead a ministry program in the church called Alpha.  I spent 3 years studying theology in college, and 20 odd years involved in the Christian church, many years in a variety of leadership positions and it was during this Alpha program that I had first learned what Amen really meant.

I had prayed thousands of times throughout my years in the church, I had said amen more times than I have brushed my teeth and combed my hair in my life time combined, and yet I had no idea what it meant.  The bible says that prayer is a conversation with God, and I thought when you said amen at the end of a prayers, essentially you were saying, “The End” to the conversation.  as an aside,  I think that’s kinda paradoxical now that I am a writer and that I RARELY get to use those words because my pieces rarely come to their end.   And without losing a bunch of you because I am talking about the bible or praying, that is not my point at all.  I just saw something I had never thought of before and wanted to share a connection my brain had made after engaging with this Ted Talk.

It turns out Amen does not mean The End.  Amen means, “so be it.”

I began to think and pontificate, and let my thoughts wander.

What if our lives are in fact, living prayers? And what if we misinterpret the pronouncement of death as The End?  And instead choose to let death be our “So be it.”  A proclamation in fact.

This is what it could mean for me and my perspective of losing my mother.

For one, it means, it is not an ending.  I suppose I could see it as a continuation, of the 74 years she previously lived.  What if instead of Goodbye I said, so be it?  Acknowledging the life til now, and leaving our goodbyes to an open ended conversation, that doesn’t end at amen, or goodbye.

I don’t want to argue semantics, philosophy or religion, and I see there are many places for this idea to be taken apart, but my choice right now is to not see death and hence the idea of goodbye as the end.  (I kinda imagine I’m not the only person to consider this concept either.) But the metaphor of our lives as a prayer, and death not being the end but instead the amen.

I 100% believe this is part of the reason my mom’s death was a heroic one.  My mom didn’t end her life with a final page outlook, she approached death with an open ended conversation.  She said so be it, with an occasional, “but am I really dying?”  She told my sister (and my Aunty) that she looked at death as an adventure, she was curious about what lay beyond that last breath.  It’s not like she was all gung ho or anything.  She struggled for every breath until she took her last one New Years Eve.  She cried when she realized her mini-stroke had prevented her from a much needed conversation with her best friend days before her death, because although she walked/rode heroically onto the palliative care unit, she was under no delusion, that in fact some things of what we knew as our normal were most definitely coming to an end.

I did have the privilege of saying goodbye to my mom, I said it to her every time I left the room to leave or to just go get a glass of water.  But the amens, they were everywhere.  Our “so be its” were evident even without our words.  Our “so be its”, were in our toasts at the bedside with glasses of wine, our “so be its” were in the washing of her hair, the holding of her hands and the tears we shed both at and away from her bedside.  Saying the word “goodbye”, although a part of, were not the act of our saying “so be it”, our actions spoke as well.

And for that I am reassured all the goodbyes my mom needed were said, and unsaid, just as they were meant to be.

©️Entirety 2018

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