Despite the fact that I’m not a morning person — I always warn people not to talk to me until I’ve had a shower and coffee — I have found that it’s in those early morning hours that I do some of my thinking. Normally it’s while washing my hair that some song will come to mind, and from there my brain travels random paths. Sometimes it’s about the day ahead, other days it’s a novel plot, and then there are days where there’s no real rhyme or reason to it all.
This morning an old Michael W. Smith song – “Friends” – popped in my head. I haven’t heard the song in years, but it immediately brought back memories of my freshman year in high school. The youth group sang it at church, dedicated to the seniors that were about to graduate. A week later I listened to the soloist singing the song during my high school’s graduation as tears streamed down my face. My freshman year had been made easier by a group of seniors that took me under their wings. Even though they were older than me, we’d all grown up together. That was the first time that what it meant to say “good-bye” really hit me.
I grew up in a city where people didn’t stray far. Most people went to college fifteen to thirty minutes away from their hometown — a town that they would probably return to after earning their degree. At church and dance recitals, those who graduated always returned. You’d see them on the weekends or at recitals. Sometimes they’d even pop in to help teach one of the dance classes. They were just never far. It was a comforting feeling, but it also meant never really saying “good-bye”. In May of 1990-something, that started to change. A group of people that I loved were about to pack up and leave for destinations unknown and lives still being determined.
September rolled around and new students came in, new friendships were formed, and in May there were more sad good-byes. It was the way of life for three years, and in the forth it was me sitting there in the cap and gown. It was me that was packing up to leave. Three hours away from my family and friends is where my new home would be. Back then I didn’t have any plans of working in news. If I had, I would’ve known that those four years were preparing me for what was to come.
In news people rarely stay in one place for too long. They’re always looking to climb higher, which means moving from city to city, state to state, sometimes clear across the country. I was with my first station for a little over three years. That’s probably about the norm in a lot of places. Now I’m outside the norm, having been with WJBF for nearly eleven years. That means a lot of hellos and countless good-byes. I’ve watched some great friends move on to greener pastures. They’re friends that I’ve laughed with, cried with, grown with, learned with… That’s the thing. TV news could be considered one big family.
Good-byes are a part of life, though. We all have to face them, and there are all kinds of good-byes. There’s the good-bye you expect that results from a move or change of life, then there are the good-byes that come with a death. There are good-byes to people you can’t wait to be away from, and sometimes there are good-byes that happen so gradually that you don’t know they’re happening until it’s over. I’ve seen my fare-share of all of these.
This year has probably been one of the hardest. In January I watched a dear friend leave; it was probably one of the hardest good-byes I’d faced in a long time. As the months passed, I watched as more friends left. Then recently, because of what I’ll simply refer to as a harsh twist of fate, there were good-byes that went unsaid because of the swiftness of it all. And now I’m preparing to watch as another special friend leaves, taking — as he put it — a leap of faith.
These latest farewells will certainly not be the last. And in time, just like in the months that followed watching that first high school graduation, the pain will ease. Life will continue on. From time to time, memories will come flooding back, and I’ll smile even though my heart hurts a little.
This week a group of high school students are dealing with a tragic loss of a classmate. There are families dealing with the senseless deaths of their loved ones. And there are others that are simply farewells for the most ordinary reasons. Maybe that’s why the song came to me this morning, because so many people right now are facing those dreaded “good-byes”. Soon high school students will be sitting where I was so many years ago, whether they’re the ones that are being left behind or the ones that are leaving.
It’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to cry. But I encourage everyone to take hold of the good times. Take hold of how that relationship has enriched your life, because it has. Even the bad relationships have taught you something. They’ve made you a better person. That’s really all we can ask.