Tag Archives: final words

I Hate Saying Goodbye

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops a scene of how she hates saying goodbye.It was the last photography class. It had been a difficult semester but the class was one of the things that saved me. I showed up even the day after my mother died. Whether or not I had completed the week’s assignment, the instructors and other students always made me feel welcome. But an hour before the class would be over forever, I left. I silently snuck out like I always leave: like I’d be back again next week, like nothing would have changed.

I hate saying goodbye. The painfully awkward standing around, nervous fussing, words spoken, words unuttered, and generally dragging out the inevitable separating make me want to disappear. It doesn’t matter if it’s a routine parting or a departure into death; it means things will be different from then on. I’ve already experienced too many changes, too recently. It’s scary to move onward once again, meet new people, start another class, another project, begin the next new chapter of my life. After all, how many more new chapters do I get? Might this be my last? Goodbye implies an end to something—a Last Time—and I hate Last Times: the last time I prayed for a miracle, a loved one’s last breath, last words, the last time I saw my daughter’s face, the last family photograph before….

There is no One Right Way to say goodbye. You can bid farewell to someone or something without even uttering the dreaded word ‘goodbye.’ A nonchalant “See ya” would work if one musters up a tiny wave of the hand. “It was great to share this time with you” could really resonate if a brief hint of eye contact is added. A simple silent nod could suffice. But me—I don’t do goodbyes.

At times of parting, I wish I could be bold enough to speak up, to simply sum up the situation and spill out what’s in my heart. But the words conveying my sentiments have a long winding labyrinth to follow from heart to head to my voice box. It can take days or months for my message to journey out into the world.

During the car ride home from the last class, and over the weekend, the words I wish I had left the class with finally found their way into my head and then onto paper.
“Thank you,” I would have said. “Thank you all for being here, for amazing me with what you accomplished, and for bringing me happiness. See you around.”
A goodbye message. I
t’s pretty-much what I could have told my mother and friend (who both died over the course of this semester) as well. Might need to memorize and practice.


How do you say goodbye – not forever?

Final Words

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops a friend floating in space to illustrate losing a loved one.“How would you like me to remember you?” I asked my friend who was in the active stage of dying. Death was days or maybe only hours away. She lay silent for a long while in a hospital-bed newly parked in her sunroom. Her eyebrows scrunched up. I felt bad that my question was making her work so hard, so I rephrased it, “All this time we’ve spent together, what do you want me to remember?”

She finally whispered her response and I repeated it out loud so I would never forget. And shortly after, howling in the car, I wrote down what she said, and then dashed off to roam the unfamiliar country roads north or east of her house, to lose myself before it could be announced that I’d lost my friend.

Over the next three days I became more and more unmoored, ungrounded. Restless and unruly, I waited as family members and a vast community of friends made their farewells. I thought there would be time to be with her, to hear more of her final words.

For the last two years I’d known exactly where I’d be Wednesday afternoons—in my friend’s sunroom, sipping tea, surrounded by her cats and my dog. We would read aloud each other’s words and missions—hers to leave a legacy for her family, mine to record the journey through the wilds of cancer with my daughter, and to address the issues my daughter and I never talked about. The tough conversations about living and dying. Cancer. And loving. In my friend’s sunroom, on Wednesdays, ideas and words I could never before discuss became routine. We learned words could plant one’s footprints firmly for others to follow, or set a person floating off into space. We explored and captured the right words, the best words, ever aware that my friend’s time was running out.

Three days after that last visit, when I got the text, “She left this morning very peacefully,” I pulled out the page on which I’d scrawled what my friend had responded:

“Remember that the two of us, together, asked the hard questions.” Except for “goodbye” and “I love you,” this was the last thing she told me. Rereading her words, the ones I am now taping to my computer, was like finding a map that pointed the way home from a long odyssey.


What are the hardest things to talk about? Do you remember your loved one’s last words?