When friends are going through a difficult time, we hurt. One of my old buddies sent me the following text message a few weeks back.
“Please say a prayer for my Mum - sad to report that she has terminal cancer and only has 3-6 months!! I’m going home to spend quality time with her and to say goodbye.”
Going home. Somehow the words bring to mind joyful holidays from the past. Long overdue gatherings with family. Or returning home after a semester away at school. I can’t think of a time when the words carried such a complex range of emotions. My immediate reaction was deep sadness. When trying to put myself in his shoes, it was just unbearable. How exactly does one go about saying goodbye when you know this goodbye is, well, the last one?
I found it hard imagine the thoughts going through my friend's mind on the long overseas flight as he rehearsed their meeting. What should I say? I need to be strong. How much is she suffering? How can I best be there for her?
Yet, when you get past the initial emotions things begin to look a bit different. There will still be great joy in the simple reunion of mother and son. The circumstances are downright awful, but the plan to “spend quality time with her” will be filled with sweet moments of tenderness and probably a decent bit of laughter. If nothing else it will be filled with unrivaled love.
Reports from the trip to see Mum were upbeat. He is “so glad” he went.
Their time together made the goodbye for the last time come too soon. Isn’t it always too soon? When we part ways with family and friends, we assume a next time. When someone dies suddenly we think about the last time and how we didn’t know it would be the last time. And if we did, what might we have done or said?
By knowing this would be it, they got to say the things they might normally have assumed could be said later. No doubt my friend gave the comforting message of eternal life through Jesus. We can be confident of salvation, but that doesn’t necessarily make it any easier. A lady from church who recently passed told her family that she was not afraid to die, but she just love them too much to let go. I found that to be profound.
The hardest part for me is being reminded that I one day will be doing the same. Saying goodbye for a final time or failing to say something I thought I had plenty of time to say. So today I pray for the opportunity and courage to say the things I would feel compelled to say at a last time moment. That I would be bold and let my family and friends know how much I love them. Because it might just be me getting the call heavenward and I want them to know before I have to let go.
Run in Peace, Rest in Grace