It is never easy to say Goodbye. Some goodbyes are easier than others. Some are indeed difficult. “In my end is my beginning and my beginning is in my end.” Conscious goodbyes are one thing. We say farewell knowing we will never be back that we will never see each other again. These are the hard ones.
I stood in the bar of El Rincon, in Avila, at 6:00 am, waiting for the taxi that would take me to Madrid and away for the last time. I was planning to return the following year and then it hit me – this was indeed my last goodbye and I would never return to that place. A tidal wave of emotion swept over me and I felt a deep, earthy sorrow – the sorrow of permanent loss.
It was matched on two other occasions. The first occurred when I drove to the sea shore of my childhood in Wales, with my mother’s ashes in the back seat and strict instructions on how and where to scatter them. Walking away was one of the most difficult things I ever did. Even more difficult was leaving my father, a widower now, in his bed, and saying that goodbye. It was not the final goodbye, but I knew I would never see him again, in that house, under those circumstances.
I cried in the taxi, all the way to the railway station. Great, heart-rending sobs that tore me apart, body and soul. The spill over from my nostrils reached the floor of the cab, a long, thick spider-thread of deep-seated despair, because I knew my life had changed forever, and the support on which I had always counted would no longer be there.
People and pets – both are difficult. Holding the paw of a beloved cat, while the vet slips the needle in, and the companion of ten, fifteen years, drifts quietly to sleep. Or watching a faithful dog, slipping slowly downhill, and knowing that someday, soon, the decision must be made, the dark deed done. The knowledge that one relieves suffering and brings an easy release does not decrease the heartfelt pain of that last goodbye.
I used to visit the Sappers Club in Toronto. In the basement of that establishment I discovered a wealth of photographs from WWI. The old men would lead me downstairs and, through thick salt tears, explain what each photo meant to them. Round about midnight, a group of them would stand before a photo called Goodbye Old Friend. It depicted a shell-shocked, broken horse, with a pistol held to its head. The men, they explained, had volunteered for war, and knew all about its suffering. The animals were innocent, and knew not the reason why. Ah, ending the sufferings of the innocent, human or beast, that is, perhaps, the saddest farewell, for some, but not for others.
We each will hold a private moment within our own hands and minds. To share or not to share – that is the question, for each of us – poor creatures, as Dylan Thomas says, born to die.