Hard to say ‘goodbye’


By Betty Slade

This article goes deep in my heart and I can’t let it go. Maybe writing and encouraging others will give me closure. Losing someone, saying “Goodbye,” is hard when we still need them. I’ve attended more than eight funerals in the past 18 months and my heart still hurts.

I read in the SUN newspaper that my friends lost their daughter. I grieved and prayed for them. I can’t imagine the hurt to lose a child. Another friend lost her husband and I wonder what I’d do without my Sweet Al. A friend’s daughter is grieving over the loss of her mother. I lost a brother, cousin and aunt recently.

I found an email from my friend who held my hand through the last 12 years of my journey of writing. Then I found myself holding her hand with my prayers and giving support to her daughter’s loss.

I’m still not ready to let go of her hand. Every time I write a scene or chapter, I think, “I wish Lin was here. She would tell me exactly what was wrong with this sentence.”

Lin’s last communication to me included instructions. When I ran across it, I laughed. Only because her email reminded me of a story of Grandma Moses. Grandma Moses painted her last watercolor on the day she died at 101 years of age. I’ve always said I want to be found on the day of my death with fresh paint under my fingernails. Today, I’m not painting, but I hope to meet the last deadline for this column on my last day on this earth.

I’m not expecting to leave anytime soon, but I surely didn’t expect to be left behind by so many people whose friendship I’ve enjoyed, found great comfort in, and from whom I’ve learned so much about life. It was time for them to go, but I’m still not ready to let go.

My friend wrote her last email to me on her way to the hospital, “Oh, I wish I could be on Zoom with you. I’m being discharged from OKC to go back to Ponca City for chemo before the big surgery which will bring me back to OKC in two weeks.” In a blink of an eye, she was gone, never to return.

She also listed instructions for me to follow before I submitted my book proposal. 1. Follow the ELPI guidelines for submission to the letter. Nothing more and nothing less. Plus, in the order listed. Her list went on, pointing out every detail in order to be accepted.

I did what I was told and I was accepted. Because of Lin, I was able to find one of the best publishing companies suitable for my book. She brought me to the finish line, but left it up to me to complete what we started.

This television show might have been years before your time, but you might remember “The Loretta Young Show,” an anthology drama broadcast on Sunday nights hosted by Loretta Young, who played the leading part.

Seventy years later, I still remember one of the episodes. It frames what I’m feeling about my loved ones who have gone before me, who didn’t want to go, weren’t ready to go, and had so much more to give. They tried, held on by their fingernails, but couldn’t hold on any longer.

The story goes: The wife lay sick and bedridden. Each morning the husband opened the curtains to let in the light. Her bedroom window faced an apple tree outside. As the tree changed seasons, spring-green leaves turned to summer green, then came autumn fruit with beautiful red and yellow leaves.

The wife marked her last days with the changing of the seasons. Fall season came full of colorful leaves. The leaves fell from the branches each day. She identified her life with that tree as she struggled to live. She counted the leaves with the number of days she might still have.

Then one day, with only one dried leaf clinging to a bending branch rapping at her window, she knew her time was short.

She became sicker. She said her goodbyes, knowing she would be leaving the shadow of this earth soon.

During the night, the husband climbed up a ladder. On the outside of the window, he painted a gold leaf attached to a limb. The next morning when the wife woke, surprised she was still alive, that painted leaf clinging to a limb gave her hope. She had another day to live.

Remembering the story is like holding on to the sweet memories and telling the stories of our loved ones. It’s like painting a leaf in the window to say they are still with us. They held on as long as they could. They still had fresh paint under their fingernails when they said goodbye.

Final brushstroke: We talk about a better place. We know from our faith, they are walking in their resurrected life, but that only gives a certain amount of comfort when we miss them from this side of the wall. 

Send your comment to bettyslade@centurytel.net.

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