Today’s post is by Scott Landis
I just dropped her off at the airport. I drove away with tears in my eyes as I felt that deep sense of pain that comes each time we say goodbye. Why is it so hard? Why does love come with such a painful flipside? But this time, as I drove away, I noticed something shifted within me. It occurred to me, in that difficult moment, that this really is the essence of so much of life. This was one in long series of goodbyes, a reality I try repeatedly to avoid but ultimately cannot. These everyday goodbyes force me to confront the necessary yet painful feeling of letting go.
The start of the school year as summer draws to a close seems to bring this emotion to the surface for many of us. Whether it’s putting your little one on the school bus for this first time or saying goodbye in a dormitory hallway at the beginning of your child’s freshman year, life seems to shift abruptly from the way things have always been to a new reality. The stress, the bickering, and all those petty annoyances seem to take a back seat to the ache of saying goodbye, of letting go.
Driving from the airport, I began to consider the many ways I am constantly letting go. I continued to ponder how life is a series of partings whether that involves people, places, or things each of which bring meaning to my life and define, in part, who I am – that is until I no longer have them. When I let go I realize that all of these aspects of my life are only temporary.
When my mom died, I felt an aching sense of emptiness and confusion as I experienced my first significant loss. While her death was not a surprise, the feeling of letting go was. For the first time I knew the pain of grief. A piece of me was gone forever. When my former partner died, I didn’t know whether I could go on – or whether I wanted to. He was my “soul mate.” He meant the world to me. Letting go meant living alone, going to events by myself, selecting the “widower” block on all those silly forms, and, yet again, feeling the deep pain of loss. Divorce, loss of jobs, and the gradual decline of my body all remind me I am constantly letting go, saying goodbye, and experiencing the pain of reality, as well as the reality of pain.
But this time, as I drove away from the airport, I sensed something new. I felt the loss. I tasted the tears, but I also wondered, “Is this what needs to happen in order to make more room in my spiritual heart for Presence to blossom? Is letting go a necessary part of life that opens the door to the God who invites me to go deeper?
My guess is I will always hate the goodbyes. I will never like those parting moments with that huge lump in my throat that barely lets me squeak out my “I love you. Take care. Call me when you get home,” as I turn away one more time. But in the turning, I am beginning to see, I turn not from love but to love as my heart breaks open to the God who seeks moments like these to enter, comfort, and remind me that even in my humanity there is an abiding presence of Divinity and a deeper union prevails. It is in letting go that I make room for the God who desires my whole life.