“There is nothing that can replace the absence of someone dear to us, and one should not even attempt to do so; one must simply persevere and endure it.” — Dietrich Bonhoeffer, theologian

He and I drive past the national cemetery this Labor Day morning.  Our talk turns to military funerals.

“Remember I get one,” he says.

“With full honors, the flag, and a bagpipe,” I nod somberly.

“And a 21-gun salute,” he adds.  “Or three, since it is hard to find volunteers for the guns.  Three would suffice.  Less than a proper Minnesota goodbye, but it will do.”

I recall the funeral of an uncle, a war veteran.  The burial would be delayed. The military salute took place outside the church. I stayed inside and counted the shots, holding our fearful daughter tightly so she didn’t cry out. I missed seeing the casket go into the hearse.  I did not give him a proper goodbye.

My wave of sad recollection breaks as the terminal looms ahead.  My husband’s flight departs in an hour. He is in a hurry. A little kiss, a quick bear hug, a quiet “I love you,” from my lips, and he heads toward the terminal.  The wave of sadness begins to build as I watch him walk away.

I try to remember how I look forward to his trips. No cooking, cleaning.  No early mornings. No lunches to pack. And the remote control is mine.  Small matters when a piece of my heart has left me.

I can see him no longer. Sorrow rises. He did not say goodbye.  He would be gone a week. It seems like forever in my melancholy morning mood.

I meet our son and family for a quick breakfast before their long drive back to Chicago.  Our time this morning will be little more than it takes for our waitress to get food on the table.  I am grateful she forgets the silverware. Even a minute is a gift.  It extends our hello, and delays our goodbye.

And then, our time is up.  We hug, and my grandson says with a little parental prompting, “I love you Nama!”

“I love you Magnus,” I whisper into his neck.  As they start to walk away I yell:  “Goodbye!”  He turns in his father’s arms and waves with a grin. “Goodbye!”

“We will be back soon,” my son says.

Back for hello. And another goodbye. Oh, my heart.

“As for us, brothers and sisters, when, for a short time, we were made orphans by being separated from you—in person, not in heart—we longed with great eagerness to see you face to face” (1 Thess. 2:17, NRSV).


3 thoughts on “Longing

  1. I’ve always had such a hard time with goodbyes. My parents moved to a suburb of DC after my freshman year in college at Luther. They would fly me home for summer, Christmas and spring break. Thanksgiving was too short and too close to Christmas to be worth a plane ticket. Back then my parents could wait at the gate with me but those goodbyes were so hard. I was always a sobbing mess.

    Thanks for writing! It is gift you give to the world!

    1. Lisa: It is good to know that longing for others is very much a part not just of the human condition, but part of what God created for his people. It removes the fear that we are weak when we mourn over goodbyes. How hard for you as a young woman. My parents moved to another house in the same community, and I never felt like I went home again. It did not help that they put no bedroom for me in the new house. I had a bed in the closet of the family room (literally under the stairs).

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