They say that “parting is such sweet sorrow”. Well first off, I’m not quite sure who “they” are. Secondly, I sure haven’t found it very sweet. I don’t particularly like “goodbyes”, especially when they are for good. But they are inevitable.
In houseparenting there are many joys and many difficulties. Our houseparents endure a lot. In my experience, the hardest thing to do in that job by far is to say goodbye to the kiddos you’ve been caring for. My wife and I were houseparents for 2 ½ years and we became experts (though we never really got the hang of it) at saying goodbye. We said goodbye to 43 children that we cared for. That doesn’t even count the children who left the ministry who were not in our home.
I can still remember the first time we said goodbye. She was 2. She had been with us for about four or five months. At the time she was the only toddler we had (that would sure change!), so we spent a great deal of time with her. She came with an injury. We loved her and cared for her. We gave her the attention she needed and watched her heal. When we found out she was going to leave, we were sad because her home environment had not changed. But of course there was nothing we could say or do about that.
The sad day came and she left. We said goodbye. We watched her get in the truck with her mother and drive off. We quietly went over to the couch and sat down, just a bit exhausted. Then we just cried. We had never said goodbye to a child before. We simply did not know how to feel or what to do.
I realized a paradox that day. When this precious girl left she took a piece of our hearts with her. Somehow though, our capacity to love grew. (Which had absolutely nothing to do with us – it came directly from God.) That is how we carried on. And that is how we were able to continue to love after so many goodbyes. That’s God’s paradoxical math: subtraction = multiplication. When we love others, we are pouring what we have into them. We never end up with less, but exponentially more!
It is easy to hold back because we may one day have to say goodbye. But it is far better to love without abandon. When we do – our hearts will always be full. Until we say that last goodbye.
By Randall Jeffrey