The Sacrament of Goodbye

Had not done any yoga in 16 straight days because I was busy with year-end deadlines and Christmas shopping, and I thought I’d give my left arm a rest to complete its healing, and other excuses you could think of. That includes having nice nails during the holidays.

Now I’m back on my mat so goodbye long nails. I won’t add any more pain to marichys and supta k by not cutting my fingers when I bind. 

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As we enter a new decade, I only have one resolution to make–to say goodbye to comforting illusions and to live in truth no matter how painful it may be.

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Friends said their goodbyes to their loved ones this year–a dear friend to her father, a grade/high school friend to her only son and child, a couple of friends to their mothers, and yet another to his brother. We said goodbye to our former President Corazon Aquino and to music icons Francis M. and Michael Jackson. We grieved over the passing on of the guru of our yoga gurus, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, and the economics guru, Paul Samuelson. Our family said adieu to my cousin-in-law, who, at 42, succumbed to aneurism.   

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Below is a transcript of a homily delivered by the late Fr. James Donelan, S.J. some 15 years ago at the AIM Chapel. From this piece I borrowed the title of this post.

There is a mystery about saying “goodbye” that makes it one of the great natural sacrament of life. As we know, Shakespeare calls it a “sweet sorrow.” Sorrow because we part – but sweet because it makes us realize how much we love someone. Goodbyes wouldn’t be painful, unless we loved. But pain is a small price to pay for love. Yet a price we have to pay. There is no growth or development in our life that doesn’t lead us to saying goodbye. We go forth to find ourselves. Who we are, what we are called on to do. Unless we feel pain in going away–or letting others go–we miss an important experience of life. Going away is as necessary for us as it was for the Lord. He told the apostles if He didn’t go away, the Spirit wouldn’t come.

But the hardest part is not in saying goodbye, but in allowing others to say goodbye, encouraging them to say it. To leave us and experience loneliness and sorrow.

All these goodbyes–going off to school, getting married, emigrating, going to war–prepare us for a further mystery:death. 

For we learn a great secret–that knowing how to say goodbye never dispoils us of what we have known and loved. Material things are lost by separation, but not those of the spirit.

The more we willingly accept such separations, the less power death has over us.  For we will have died a thousand deaths. But more importantly, we will have learned how to live in hope until the day of reunion, of resurrection. Death has no terror, no hidden facts for people who have learned to say goodbye.

Thus to really live life, we have to learn how to separate ourselves willingly from people and events, from trying to possess people, from unhealthy dependence on people, from the illusion we can close the door and trap life… hold it changeless in people and experience. 

Rather the true way to what we want is a pilgrimage through dark valleys–little deaths–but at the end a joyful reunion, tears of gladness, sunlit mountaintops and the best hint of what heaven will be like.

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2 thoughts on “The Sacrament of Goodbye

  1. Thanks for sharing the homily of Fr. Jim and if you have more please publish them. I can almost hear Fr. Jim with his half lisp as he delivered this homily that as always is short but meaningful. Ramon “Arps” de Vera

    • You’re welcome, Arps. Happy to be of service to whoever drops by my blog–makes retyping a dot-matrix printed material worth the trouble. 🙂 Will check if I had other works of his. Blessing!

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