Are you familiar with the baby ninja flip-and-sit trick? I’m well versed, so allow me to explain. It involves setting your baby on the changing table to replace an old diaper with a new one (now that’s a euphemistic way of saying it!). However, the baby has alternate plans for this activity, like flipping over, sitting up and teetering on the edge of the table or clinging onto the wall-mounted shelf above like the cliff scene from The Good Son where the mom has to make a life or death choice between Elijah Wood and Macaulay Culkin. Anyways, changing a diaper upside-down is no small feat. It requires the dexterity of a jeweler and the swiftness of a chef who’s five dinner orders behind.
This is one of many new tricks my daughter has revealed as of late. Another, cuter, trick is the famed wave goodbye. She flicks her wrist like she’s shooing away a bee, utters “bu bu” in the sweetest little voice I couldn’t imitate if I tried, all the while with a huge smile plastered on her face. Upon her learning this, something in me just fell to pieces.
Perhaps it’s because, for much of my life, I have associated goodbyes with sorrow, and sorrow with a plea to God: “please make this go away.”
It meant good things and good people I loved disappeared out of sight, and the connection and love along with it. It meant the end of a fun occasion: a family vacation, summer camp, a friendly phone call, a sleepover or the end of our family morning routine that often culminated in me crying in the hallway outside my classroom, pleading for my dad to take me back home. (Man, I was a dramatic college student! Kidding.) What was I so afraid of? Losing my comfort, my life of cushy-cozy predictability? That the good times were somehow limited?
In just a short while, I know my daughter will likely begin these associations too, and goodbyes will inevitably morph from sweet princess waves to full-scale melodramatic meltdowns where it becomes hard to distinguish where the snot ends and the tears begin. You see, as babies and children, we naturally and biologically seek out comfort.
We are hard-wired for it from the moment we depart the warmth of the womb and enter the cold, yet beautiful reality of life in the physical realm.
Comfort is what my daughter seeks when she so sweetly pulls on my pant leg, begging to be held. It’s comfort she’s after when she cries for milk, acting, in an instant, like everything is right with the world when this need is obliged.
I’m so grateful to my daughter for teaching me that goodbyes can indeed be a beautiful thing.
We have the ability and the freedom to say “sayonara” to what we choose: bad habits, deprivation, excess. In fact, we have to fight like hell to bid it adieu. We get to choose how we live every day. Because of this, goodbyes can maintain their sweetness, and we can return to what and to whom we love day in and day out. If we don’t take ownership of these choices, it could mean life or death. Sure, that may sound intense, but after an incredibly sobering experience these last several months dealing with myriad illnesses, I don’t care to mince words when it comes to rigorous self-care.
I love the Hawaiian term “Aloha” which is interchangeable for hello and goodbye. However, in addition to a greeting, it also has deeper cultural and spiritual significance meaning love, affection, peace, compassion and mercy.
May we all embrace the “aloha” spirit of goodbyes. May we cultivate love, affection, peace, compassion and mercy every single day we get to walk this planet.
Edited by Jessie Collins