Good-bye is Never Easy
I have no idea why it’s called a GOOD-bye anyway. More often than not, good-bye is painful, hard, gut-wrenching, and difficult to walk away from. Even necessary good-byes can feel like a punch in the gut. The last month has been littered with farewells, each of them affecting different areas of my heart, but all significant to me.
I’ll start with a good-bye to a man I don’t actually know personally; but as sports fans, when does that ever matter?? Paul Pierce has spent his entire career with the Boston Celtics, my first love and favorite team of all time. He’s the Captain: loyal, devoted, gutsy, tough, and determined. He stuck with Boston through bleak times (like the Rick Pitino “era”) and carried the team on his back. He didn’t leave, not even when he was stabbed or when he was the only elite player on the court and the team had no shot at competing for a title. He’s also one of the best to ever wear Celtics’ green, second all-time on the franchise scoring list. He always said he wanted to finish his career in Boston, but he’s recently been traded to the Brooklyn Nets. The Brooklyn Nets! Seeing Pierce finish his career in Brooklyn is wrong on so many levels. My head understands pro sports is a business driven by the bottom line, but my heart only knows Paul should retire a Celtic. One of those moments when I’d like to check out and skip next season, but I can’t. True fans don’t do that…plus, I’ll need to cheer for the Captain in Brooklyn.
My second significant good-bye may seem like a joke to some because who gets attached to a car?? But Dixie wasn’t just any car; she was one of the most reliable and constant companions in my life for over a decade. Not a week went by since 2003 that I didn’t thank God for a vehicle that never failed to get me where I needed to go – whether in snowstorms or hurricanes or middle of the night treks when I crossed multiple state lines. She transported me safely all over New England and New York, to Ohio and Washington DC, and even to the Outer Banks of North Carolina for vacation. In the final month before I donated her to a police officer’s family in Ohio, I was still logging more than a thousand miles a week. Piece of cake for my Saturn ION. When I drove her for the last time, she was just shy of 301,500 miles. Even though I’m now the proud owner of an Infiniti, it’s still strange climbing into a different car because Dixie was more than that. She was the last gift my beloved Grandma ever gave me. When my Gram died at the age of 91 the week after 9/11, she left each grandchild a sum of money. Each of the others used their money fairly quickly. I couldn’t spend the money. I didn’t want the money; I only wanted my Gram back. I’d been praying for the money to buy a new car before she passed away, but I would’ve continued to drive my old beater around if it meant another day with my Gram. The money sat in a bank account untouched for 2 years, until I realized my always generous and very practical Gram would’ve hated me driving an unreliable vehicle when she blessed me with money to buy a new one. So I bought Dixie and never once drove her without thinking of my Grammy. Ten years and 300,000 miles later, I know she would’ve been pushing me to upgrade. Ha!
The car was a small reminder of my grandparents, but nothing compared to their house. My mom’s parents lived in eastern Ohio and were my favorite people in the world as far back as I can remember. My Grandpa was my hero; my grandma was my heart. Most of my vacations and summers as a kid were spent with them. They built their home on five acres in the 1950s, and I loved it there. The memories are still so vivid: playing Ghost in the Graveyard with my cousins, climbing trees (and falling out of trees) with my brother and the neighbors, watching my Grandpa play bocce at the park down the street, waiting for my Grammy to make scrambled eggs in the mornings, rocking in chairs on the back porch, catching crawfish and fireflies, sitting at my Gram’s feet to cheer for her beloved Atlanta Braves, celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. I’ll never forget being at the dinner table with my Grandpa just weeks before he succumbed to cancer or the first time I walked in the house after my Gram died, sure that my broken heart would never heal. Being there always helped. It was always a peaceful refuge from the storms of life. My mom moved back home when Gram turned 90, so the house has stayed in our family…until this week. Mom and her husband are moving to Texas; and the house now stands empty, waiting for its new owners to move in. I couldn’t manage good-bye the last time I drove away, and I still can’t fathom my world without our home on Lincoln Avenue.
One of my favorite quotes goes like this: “You can’t start the next chapter in your life if you keep re-reading the last one.” I know good-byes are necessary for transition and change and growth and progress. But they aren’t easy, and they don’t get easier until enough time passes to bring perspective. Right now, I’m hanging onto that and thanking God that even the toughest good-byes eventually give way to peace and joy and a fresh start.