There is always a certain heartache in saying goodbye, but sometimes goodbyes are beautiful. Sometimes reality wraps up better than a sitcom and sometimes endings rip us open.
Recently, a friend of mine ended his summer stay in Germany. We ended our time together toasting beers at the very same place where we had shared our first beer together the day he arrived in Germany. There was a beautiful symmetry to that goodbye. Even though his absence from my life felt deeply, his time living in this city I call home fit neatly into a beer stein shaped box. Other goodbyes are not so simple. Other goodbyes are left scattered across our hearts for years.
As I left Germany for an undetermined amount of time in order to head to the states to care for loved ones, the goodbye I shared with my boyfriend at the airport was a ragged one. We were not alone in our heart wrenching goodbyes. Every family, every couple in the airport looked as if the goodbye would splay them open. There is no symmetry or beauty in an airport at 5am.
It is impossible to compare these temporary goodbyes, no matter how poetic or horrible, to the ultimate goodbye. The farewell my grandmother said to this life held no ease or beauty. Watching her claw her way to every breath is not achingly beautiful, it is simply an ache. It is an ache that only the smile of a child, the long hug of a friend and the passage of years can dull.
Yet saying goodbye to the life we have led is just the last of many goodbyes we have to say in our lifetimes. Some of those goodbyes will be easy, some may give us glimpses of eternal beauty, some will be heart-wringing messes that leave us forever changes, but they are all markers of life and love. I, for one, wouldn’t want a life without them.