From the Pastor – Praying our Goodbyes

As some of you know, this past week (July 19-26), I traveled home to Massillon, Ohio. While this trip to Massillon gave me an opportunity to take Wendell to Cedar Point (my favorite childhood amusement park), go canoeing on the Tuscarawas River with my brother, and visit with my parents, a mentor, and other
family members, the main reason for the trip was to sort through old belongings in boxes which have sat in my parent’s home for the last twenty-five years.

This past Spring, my parents decided to downsize. They had an opportunity to buy a single-story condo. The request was made to “come sort through your stuff and decide what you want to do with it.” So, I spent time last weekend sorting through things. Boxes of GI Joe toys, a box of pictures and awards from high school, a box of trophies, and a box of mementos and souvenirs from my mission trip around the world in 1993 with Teen Missions.

The trip was successful. Wendell enjoys playing with the GI Joe toys, so those came home with us. The box of trophies came home too, not to be displayed,
but to be sent to a business that reuses and recycles old trophies. Old cards, letters, and pictures were tossed in the trash and the picture books Mom created for me from birth to age 25 were brought home. Through these moments, there was a remembering—a remembering of past life experiences and relationships, of how my life’s path has crossed with others. We journeyed together for a season and then parted ways.

Part of my remembering was saying goodbye. My parent’s house is on the market, and I expect it will be sold before I return to Ohio.

Goodbyes are a part of life. Joyce Rupp writes in the introduction to her book, Praying Our Goodbyes, “Goodbyes are as much a part of life as the seasons of the
year. The story of gain and loss, of joy and sorrow, of life and death, of union and separation, is inside each one of us.” I have said goodbye to many people, places, and things in my life. One might think, with all that practice, I would be good at it. But I have found saying goodbye has never been easy. I am not sure if I’ll ever learn how to say goodbye or that I’ll get used to it. But perhaps that is how it should be. Joyce Rupp writes, “We may be harshly bruised by life’s farewells, but it is possible to be healed… I believe that if we are willing to move inside the heart of the experience, to live patiently through the process even as we acknowledge the difficult, painful emotions, that we can experience the wonder of spiritual growth and the marvel of new depths of faith in our relationship with God and with others.”

I agree with Joyce Rupp. Therefore, I took time to sort through my things. It would have been easier to just tell my parents to “pitch it all (except the baseball card collection), after all it’s been twenty-five years.”

Yet the sorting through, the discarding of old cards and letters, reading through a keepsake scrapbook, taking a few moments to acknowledge and feel my emotions—all was a part of not just saying goodbye, but praying my goodbye. I took time to mentally do a suitcase reflection from Joyce Rupp’s book, listing the blessings of my life from my childhood home I want to carry with me as I move on.

As I experience this goodbye, I know that those reading this are also experiencing their own goodbyes. You may be seeking shelter in the storms of life, you may be struggling with the journey of faith, you may have experienced betrayal by another, you may be in constant physical pain, you may feel lost or are experiencing a
life transition, you may be moving, you may have lost a loved one who has died, or you are experiencing some other goodbye.

Whatever situation you may find yourself in, I invite you to consider not just saying goodbye, but to pray your goodbye. I would be delighted to share the resource of Joyce Rupp’s book with you, which includes prayers with rituals, movements, scriptures, songs, and prayers for those experiencing goodbyes.

Goodbyes are a part of life. They will always be with us. But as Joyce Rupp writes, “Praying a goodbye can bring us to the doorway of new beginnings. The seed of resurrection in our souls will grow again.” Praying our goodbyes can lead us to healing and to new life. I invite you to pray them on your own, with your family, or a trusted companion. If you would choose me to be that trusted companion, I would be honored.

Pastor David

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