The Reluctant Goodbye

Dominica Sunset Copyright 2008 by Blair Atherton

Dominica Sunset
Copyright 2008 by Blair Atherton

There he lay on his death bed. He had a wonderful life of failure and triumph, sorrow and joy, as well as disappointment and blessings. As he reflected on his life, he began to have feelings of profound loss. Not because of regret or for the things that might have been, but because of having to leave behind those he loves.

He had said his difficult goodbyes to other members of the family. Only the youngest two members remained to be seen for the last time.

Saving them for last seemed apt: as one road comes to an end, another begins. It provided a reminder of just how far he had come from the innocence of childhood to the spiritual trials of adulthood, and finally to the enlightened end of a long life well lived.

As these thoughts washed through his mind, his two youngest grandchildren came into the room to visit. They were quite young—barely in grade school. They were too young to have a grasp of what it means to die. He struggled with how to tell them he was going to have to leave them.

“Come here you two. Get in the bed with me,” he said. “I was hoping you would come to see me today.”

The two of them, a boy and a girl, climbed up into the bed—one on each side—-and laid their heads on his chest. As they did this, a powerful wave of love welled up inside him and he had to force back the tears that strained to explode forth under the force of his emotions. He did not want to ruin these last moments with these two that he loved so much.

For a few minutes he could not speak. Then he said, “There is something I want the two of you to know. I love you both more than anything, but I must go away and I will not see you again for a long time. I don’t want to leave you, but sometimes we must do things that we would rather not do. I want you to know that when I am gone I continue to love you, just like you keep loving me when we are apart, right?”

In unison they said, “Yes grandpa.”

“Always remember the fun we had and how much I love you. While we are apart, you will be wrapped in a blanket of my love that will keep you warm and safe always. Does that sound good?”

“Yes grandpa,” they replied.

“But when will we see you again?” asked the little girl.

“I don’t know when you will see me, but I will always be with you because of the love that we have for each other.”

The little boy said, “I love you grandpa. I’m going to miss you.”

“Me too,” said the little girl.

“I can’t begin to tell you how much I am going to miss you guys. I will be watching over you from afar and I will always be with you in your hearts and minds, and you in mine.”

When the children left and the door closed behind them, he closed his eyes and drifted away. He left behind tears running down his check for the sorrow his departure will cause, and a bit of a smile on his face for finally getting it right.

Author’s note

This is a fictional dialogue. Although the story focuses on the little children,  the sentiment expressed in the dialogue is meant to span all age groups.


The Transformative Nature of Tragedy

From Wallpaper


Traumatic events in our lives are usually the most transformative—whether it is nearly dying ourselves, the loss of a loved one, or some other calamity. It is sad that tragedy and heartbreak are often needed to initiate positive change in many of us.

These events may cause us to realize that we have been attracted to the neon lights of fame, fortune, and desire for far too long. We begin to see that the bright colors are artificial and without substance or spiritual quality. I believe that traumas can awaken us from a sleepwalk towards the spiritual desolation caused by a life driven by materialistic values rather than spiritual ones.

Tragedy often rekindles our compassion for others and expands our understanding of suffering. Traumatic events draw our spirit forth causing us to reach out to others, not so much to get support, as to give it. Not so much to grieve a loss, as to celebrate one life, and resolve to improve another (usually our own).

Our search for meaning in the loss of a loved one, more often than not, turns inward to seek how we can honor their memory, become better human beings, and truly live ourselves. These thoughts come, not so much from a fear of death, but rather to exalt life—to come to understand what is important in life, and in doing so, undergo a meaningful transformation for the better. The challenge is to integrate positive changes in us brought about by this transformation in a way that guides our lives continuously and irreversibly going forward.