-call lawyer to finalize will
-stop by social security office-kid’s new numbers
-put away Little Ones things
-back to school shopping
-take stuff to Goodwill
I put all of Little Ones things away, back in the closet. I folded her blankets, little pajamas and wrestled the Buick sized convertible car seat out of the van. Oh the ache, oh the struggle of it all. There is a fear that goes hand in hand with the finality of putting the items back in the closet. If I am being honest, I am afraid if I put her stuff away, she won’t come back.
One of the grim realities of foster care, you say goodbye more often than you want, more than any parent should. Foster care represents some of the worst versions of goodbye, I have seen. The look in a birth parent’s eyes as they say goodbye spouting empty promises. The weight I have felt of my own goodbyes, kissing her head one more time, calming her as she screams “mama,” buckling her in and closing the door. In foster care, some goodbyes are only for a moment, sending them with a variety of state workers, to another emotionally taxing visit, for a few hours or for overnights with birth parents. These are the goodbyes, that suck the breath right out of your lungs, they are dreaded and heavy.
I am again, in a season of goodbyes, which I hate. Does anyone really enjoy goodbye? Is there actually “good” in that goodbye? The season I am walking in currently consists of two goodbyes that may be two of the hardest to date. What a hard road it is to walk well, desiring to keep my heart open, surrender, grieve and once again find my peace. I am not sure if the negative feelings I have about goodbye stem from insecurity, deep rooted fear or if it’s because I am relational and saying goodbye to a person is never what I want to do. Over the span of two years, I learned to navigate them better, after a dozen of my dear and near relocated across the world, I have learned goodbye is not a death sentence. Sure it is a change and something new to navigate but the fruit of it can be really beautiful.
Sometimes goodbyes are permanent and something you just have to be okay with, death is unexplainable and honestly just hard. Sometimes goodbyes are geographical, temporary, seasonal and sometimes just needed. We say goodbye to cities, favorite old shoes and good friends, we say it on the phone, in our offices and on the train. We say it to strangers and loved ones, it is spoken from places of utter brokenness, confusion and in moments of pure joy. The word “goodbye” doesn’t seem to carry as much weight as the circumstance in which it was said. We know that life is so short and so sweet and that navigating the road is hard, then throw in a few unwanted goodbyes and suddenly the road seems unmanageable.
When I got the call that Little One was leaving our home (now for the second time), I felt every inch of the pain of this reality. In one day, I had experienced the joy of officially gaining all of the rights over my older three, her siblings, and in just a few hours later I would begin the process of saying goodbye, again.
I remember that night, it was a Thursday, we all were wiped of energy after a day of celebrating. I was doing my last check on everyone, before climbing into my own bed, this is my favorite moment of the day. I stood over Little One’s crib watching her sleep, tears flooded my eyes and I whispered, “I can’t do this.” I scooped up my beauty, holding her close listening to her breathe, smelling her, just soaking her in. I carried her to my bed where I cried out for freedom and protection, for the journey ahead and for the grief that was about to come down on our household, I cried out against brokenness and for the strength to tell the other three.
In those bleak moments, there is little “good” to be found in parting, I still can’t get my head wrapped around this road and journey. When someone penetrates your heart and very soul packing their things up really does not take it away. I sometimes wish our very hearts could work that way, as if we could merely pack things up and put them in the closet, for a later time. My home and heart are filled with sweet memories, her first steps, first words, the honor of watching her blossom and thrive, watching her physical body heal and seeing us all heal a little in that season.
I don’t think in this life I will ever be good with goodbyes, and I think that is okay, I feel as though goodbyes go against the very nature of community. What I am learning is how to navigate them well. I have gone from the kind of woman, who spends the last days of trips counting down to departure and how sad it will be, to the kind of woman that stays present and just soaks in as many memories as possible. Little One was a gift, every moment with us was important, eternal and needed. Saying goodbye to her didn’t end our story, in fact I think that true beauty comes out in the goodbyes, the juggle to fully love and fully let go.
The months ahead will be a balancing act between grieving and laying it all to rest and expectantly holding my heart open, waiting for that sweet reunion. Putting away her toys, clothes and cloth diapers is another step in saying goodbye, another step in opening my hand and letting her go. May we live each day, soaking in the memories, knowing that tomorrow we may say goodbye. I have found that for every goodbye I have uttered, I have found at least one hello.