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Saying Goodbye

“I’ll see you after your surgery, honey,” I said, tears streaming down my face as I kissed my husband’s goodbye-rosessweet face. “And if God takes you home, I’ll meet you later at Jesus’ feet.” He leaned his face up to meet mine and we kissed … long, soft, tender. I felt like we put all our love into that kiss, knowing it was likely our last.

Saying goodbye may be one of the hardest things we ever have to do. Whether it’s a parent whose child is brain-dead because of one hit on a potent drug, a child whose parent or sibling is dying, or a spouse whose partner is on his deathbed, you feel like your heart will simply burst inside your chest. If your loved one has been ill, you’ve done all you can–you’ve expressed your love and appreciation, you’ve advocated for her, you’ve sat and held his hand for hours, knowing how important your presence and touch are to your loved one.

If you’re a person of faith, you’ve prayed with and for your partner and may have encouraged her with the promises of God. If not, perhaps you’ve invited a chaplain, pastor or priest in to address your partner’s need for peace with God. Here are a few other recommendations from hospice workers and physicians.

Ask if he needs help to resolve unsettled relationships. When my father lay dying, a young hospice worker asked, “Is there anyone you need to make things right with before you go?” While it’s not always possible to restore broken relationships, this is a good question to ask to help loved ones resolve outstanding issues.

Think of how you feel, and say it. Often. Repeatedly. Hospice workers say those who are dying sometimes have an uncanny ability to choose the moment of passing. You may or may not be present when the transition occurs, so don’t wait for the last minute to share your thoughts and feelings. One woman shared that her mother passed while she stepped out of the room to use the restroom.

Give them permission to go: Sometimes our loved ones want to stay for us … but there comes a time when we need to release them, let them know that however much we will miss them, we will be ok.  Two days before Dad moved into eternity, my brother assured him, “We’ll take care of Mom. And each other. We’ll be all right.” This seemed to set Dad’s mind at ease.

My mother-in-law had been in excruciating pain following surgery. Although she was in a coma, we knew she could probably still hear us. We all spoke to her. Jerry was last. “Mom, it seems that if God was going to heal you, He would have done it by now; so if you see Him calling you, go to Him.” Instantly, her heart stopped! Even the nurse gasped.

Often, your presence is more important than words. Show up. Be there. If you can, give a foot or backrub (Dad loved head rubs). Your loving touch speaks volumes.

gloryThe God who has led you and your partner to this moment knows your pain, your loss, and has promised never to leave you nor forsake you; and one day in His presence you and your loved one will again be reunited, to enjoy life eternal with Him.

“And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died…Then we will be with the Lord forever. So encourage each other with these words.” I Thessalonians 4:13-14, 17b-18 (NLT)

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  1. Nick Fernandez says:

    Carol, I know you’ve lived this. I will never forget your grief that has since turned to joy. I will never forget Jerry’s last phone. I am proud to call him my best friend/ brother in the Lord.

    1. carolnl says:

      Thank you, Nick. Your love for Jerry touches me as well.

  2. Catharine Anderson says:

    I also remember my last phone call with Jerry. What you wrote is so true. When my mom gave Her cancer-stricken husband permission to leave her, he immediately passed.

    1. carolnl says:

      Cathy, thanks for your comment. Precious to know that your mother gave Tracy permission to go – and that he immediately passed. Some day please remind me of your last phone conversation with Jerry. See you Thursday!

  3. MarJean Peters says:

    I just read 2Cor 1:3-4 this morning, which speaks directly to what you wrote, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” You have been through this and God comforted you and now you comfort and help others with His comfort. Beautifully, tenderly written! Thank You, dear friend. <3

    1. carolnl says:

      MarJean, that is one of my favorite passages of scripture. Our God doesn’t waste anything, including the pain we go through in different ways. You too have experienced pain and God’s comfort, and out of your pain are ministering to others. I love you.

  4. Karen O'Connor says:

    Beautifully written, Carol. I’m happy to say that I did with Charles and with my father all the things on your list. Thank you for encouraging those who are facing this final journey with something they love.

    1. carolnl says:

      Thank you, Karen. I thought of you and Charles as I wrote this, knowing you’d had those “final conversations” before his passing. Love you!

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