The Gift of Goodbye

Image obtained from Flickr created by Max Lebram

Image obtained from Flickr created by Max Lebram

You and I both know that the house is haunted.

You and I both know that the Ghost is me- Shakey Graves


A couple of years ago I overheard a girl describing the end of her latest relationship with these words- “I don’t know he just Ghosted.” Since then I have heard it again and again as a description of what happens when someone doesn’t actually confront the fact that they no longer want to be in the relationship, or the pursuit of a relationship, and so begin to simply slip away. A couple of unanswered text message, daily calls turn into weekly calls, they slowly disappear until there is nothing left. The actions are so gradual that you almost don’t notice the person is doing it until it is done and they are gone.


I have Ghosted, and I have been Ghosted (not sure that is the proper use of the term.) I have been a coward and my people pleasing heart hasn’t wanted to tell people, whether friend or someone I am dating, that it isn’t working anymore. Often when we do it with friends it isn’t even intentional. Our lives may be in such different stages that we no longer have so much in common and so our weekly visits or calls turn into monthly or bimonthly check ins. That’s not the kind of Ghosting I am talking about. I am talking about something I call a “full Casper” where someone disappears never to be seen or heard from again. The ghost means to be friendly, like Casper, but you end up haunted by memories and “what ifs.” It can seem like the kind thing to do, but what I am realizing is that sometimes goodbye can be a gift.


As I look back on my own life I realize that incredible pain has been caused when people haven’t said a good goodbye. I think about the end of two of my most meaningful relationships, and neither one had a “proper” goodbye. There was no “this is over conversation” except for the ones that I had to force after realizing they weren’t invested anymore. One of my favorite songs is by a band the Shakey Graves the song brings to life the experience of being ghosted as Shakey says, “you and I both know that the house is haunted, you and I both know that the ghost is me.” It is incredibly painful to have to essentially break up with yourself. You are left with a Ghost and no reason why the haunting started. When someone just disappears you wonder why you didn’t matter enough, you wonder what you missed out on being or doing. We all know that there are many reasons why someone doesn’t stay in a relationship, friendship or otherwise, sometimes it truly is a its “me not you” situation, but when you just walk away the other person is left filling in the blanks.


With the dawn of technology as our main means of communication Ghosting has become easy to do. Especially if you are using apps or online dating and have tons of connections happening at once you can just disappear on the ones you eventually don’t want to work out. With friendships we can just occasionally write a happy birthday message when Facebook reminds us and feel like we are still in people’s lives. Before the dawn of this kind of technology it would have been noticeable or even odd if we only ever heard from a friend once a year on our birthday now for many friendships even ones you care about it has become the norm.


So why am I thinking about good goodbyes? Because this week I am having to do a lot of them. This is my final week as a Pastor at my current setting, and I am having to say a lot of goodbyes and see you laters. Even though I am only going down the road a couple of cities I think there is so much value in not just disappearing, but honoring the story we have been creating together for the last five years. I am overwhelmed with how important some of the goodbyes I have received have been. I have been given the gift of good goodbyes.


My formal goodbyes will take all week because we have two ministry sites and I want to honor my time with both sites. Yesterday I preached my final messages at our one site, and attended an amazing goodbye “hootenanny.” It was a special evening filled with a lot of my favorite things, from my favorite ice tea (they went to sonic!!!) to my favorite side dish grilled brussel sprouts, to the whole community singing to me, the night was touching and kind and honored what we have been as a community. It was a great goodbye. What was also meaningful was that individuals came up and shared with me what I have meant to them. It was incredible. We don’t do that enough when people are still amongst us.


This week will be my last of a lot of things. My last time preaching at my site, my last preschool chapel, my last staff meeting, and all of them will have tough but important goodbyes. These goodbyes are a gift. I will treasure for a long time being able to say goodbye. Even though many of the relationships will continue, they will be different and honoring that prevents Ghosts. How we say goodbye matters almost as much as how we say hello. There are far too many Ghosts walking around amongst us.

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