One Friend to Another: A Month of Goodbyes

 

Outside, May is a month of new life: frisbees that had been collecting dust are flying; brownish-black fields that appeared dead are now sprouting with green life;1 parts of skin that had not seen the light of day for months are now showing — whether or not that’s a good idea.

Internally, however, it doesn’t always feel like new life. In this month of graduation, there are new opportunities, new jobs, new communities coming. But they’re often not here yet. And in my own transition or the move of loved ones, my heart often dwells on endings that may be more bitter than sweet.

***

Saying goodbye seems to be even more prominent than normal this May in pop culture and on The Jesuit Post.

I wasn’t the greatest fan of David Letterman, but I don’t remember a world in which he wasn’t behind a desk late at night.2 It feels weird.

I have been a huge fan of Bill Simmons, however, and while his contract technically lasts until September, the announcement earlier this month that ESPN wasn’t keeping him hit many of us in the Simmons demo (mostly 18- to 45-year-old men) harder than it probably should.

Paddy Gilger explored in an essay why this one guy losing his job – a guy who has been handsomely paid and will have opportunities aplenty beyond ESPN – hit many of us so hard:

Even though I’ve never met him, in 15 years I’ve spent a lot of time with him. I’ve spent enough time with him, I mean, to feel like I’m his friend…

I don’t want to lose this (super) weird, one-way, digital “friendship” because the bosses at ESPN got their knickers in a twist.

Andrés Arteaga wrote two pieces this month, both of which connect with this theme of saying goodbye. The first is about the end of Sábado Gigante after 53 years. Admittedly, I was always confused when I saw this show on the Spanish-language channel when channel surfing on Saturday nights. It turns out I wasn’t alone. Andŕes writes:

I will miss Sábado Gigante. Yes, I never knew what was going on. I never knew why the camera kept zooming in and out, or what the European-looking supermodels had to do with anything.

Still, this is a real loss. He writes:

But I’ve come to realize that it was never about the show itself. For many Latino families, Saturday nights, from 7-10 pm, was a time for coming together. Sábado Gigante would be playing in the background, and the conversations and laughter would begin.

Of course, as much as TV personalities like Letterman or Simmons or Don Francisco from Sábado Gigante can become part of our lives, losing their presence in our living rooms is not like the murder of one’s son. Sharing the experience of a woman he knew, Andrés writes about the role of candles in Latino culture and how “a candle can be a powerful tool for finding God in the midst of our greatest tragedies.”

Even an essay with ostensibly nothing to do with saying goodbye carries with it the inevitable heartbreak that comes from loving and then leaving a place. Paul Shelton, in his TJP debut, reflects on his first year of priesthood and asks:

What image best describes this priestly life of mine? Is it me blessing married couples, babies, horses, motorcycles, detained migrants, rosarios, houses, hands, foreheads and feet?”

Through a series of poignant snapshots, Paul’s love of the people he has served jumps off the screen, but then his bio indicates that he will be moving to a different city and job. There will be other houses and hands – and maybe even other horses – but that doesn’t mean saying goodbye to these particular people and places is any easier.

Throwing Graduation Hats

By Christian Bucad, Flickr Creative Commons

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I had a co-worker who, upon seeing how I was throwing myself into my work with students at a Jesuit high school, told me, “Michael, don’t grow roots.” She knew it would be painful when I said goodbye, and she didn’t want me to experience that heartbreak.

It was smart advice. I didn’t follow it.

I grew roots deeper than I thought possible, and I’m still recovering from having them ripped out.

I don’t regret giving myself to others. I know that painful goodbyes are signs that our hearts are working. I know that new life is all around us and that I’ll probably see people again. I get it.

But often during this month of May, my heart just isn’t there. Saying goodbye still hurts.

– // –

Cover image by Raul Lieberwirth

  1. Well, unless it’s California.
  2. Sure enough, he started the Late Show when I was negative three.

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