Learning to Say Goodbye


Learning to Say Goodbye

Learning to say goodbye to someone may sound easy, but from a personal, even intimate standpoint, I know it's not an easy thing.

This week I have wrestled with saying goodbye to a lifelong friend of mine. My friend Mitch was never a "boyfriend" of mine, he was a boy who was a friend. That's a little different. We grew up in the same small town where everyone knows each other. We attended the same schools and had the same friends. As we grew up our lives took different paths; I married and moved away and had a daughter. He married, stayed in the area and had a son.

I reconnected with Mitch after coming back home after separating from my first husband. I happened to get a part-time job working with his dad. What a comfort that was to be in a new place with someone I had known forever.  It was then that I learned Mitch's son was autistic and the challenges they were beginning to have to deal with. I know the future and road ahead of him and his family was very hard. It led to several marriages, much frustration, and alcohol and drug abuse.

I followed him through the years somewhat, and then when social media came on the scene we were closer than ever it seemed. I had followed his life with his son somewhat and Justin, his son, had grown into an adult and his autism had increased. He was no longer able to manage him at home, and had to place him in a group home locally. He couldn't be managed there, was breaking out, etc so they moved him to a more secure facility in another county. Mitch didn't want to do this, it broke his heart. I can only imagine the pain and struggle of having to do that to your child. Sadly, late one night two years ago, Justin broke out again. He was hit by a hit-and-run driver; they never even stopped. He lost his sweet son that fast, I'm sure not getting to say goodbye.

After Justin's death, he became so angry at everything. Who could blame him though? It was like I could see him screaming to grieve and he couldn't. I know he tried grief counseling twice, but never was in for the long haul. In the last two years he had so many things he couldn't resolve. He would call and talk to me in the wee hours of the morning. Sometimes I would get so frustrated with him, but I never told him. I always answered his calls, no matter when, because I wanted to be there for him, and he knew it.

He had such a good heart, was always asking about our classmates and others he had been connected to and we talked about everything together. He had asked me numerous times to go to dinner. I had always followed my gut and declined. I feared it would end our friendship, because he wanted and needed someone to be there for him at all times. I, in caring for Dad, know I'm not able to do that for anyone else. He understood completely when I explained my reasons and we remained friends.

The last time he called to ask me to dinner, I accepted. I had a frustrating week and felt I needed a distration, and my daughter was off on Friday. For some odd reason, things came together that time. He picked me up looking crisp and handsome as always. He had a beaming smile that could light up a room. We rode to a family restaurant in the area and had steak dinners. We talked about growing up, school, friends, family, so much. I had such an enjoyable time being with him and I was pleasantly surprised. He was very much the gentleman the entire time.

When he brought me home, he walked me to my door. Instead of a good night kiss, which I was apprehensive of, I received one of the most amazing hugs I think I've ever had. It was like he didn't want to let go. Then he smiled and said. "I love you. I'll see you soon." That was Friday night, and on Saturday night I received the heartbreaking news that he had taken his own life on Saturday afternoon.

I never saw a sign of this, and there's no rhyme or reason to why in these cases. I do know he struggled with so many questions. These were questions no one could give him the right answer to. I know that now he has those answers. My prayer is that he is at peace, and he is with Justin, his son who he missed every day. I've had to say goodbye to a parent, and to extended family, but not to a friend tied so closely in my life. This has been so hard and still is. Each day seems to be getting a little better, but it will be awhile before I feel whole again.

My question is this, Is this goodbye in some way preparing me for a more difficult goodbye in the future? I can't help but wonder.

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