Saying Our Goodbyes

Often when a challenge in life occurs we hear, ‘When one door closes, another door opens.’ The quote credited to inventor Alexander Graham Bell offers an optimistic twist and points us to consider next possibilities. What about the closing of doors – the endings, the goodbyes?  At this service with Rev. Sue Browning we’ll reflect on what we learn when we pause and make time for our goodbyes. After the service, UUFE will have its fall potluck. All are welcome.

Spirit of Life   #123

Board Announcements  –   Rob Todd

Prelude “I Believe” Mark A. Miller

Welcome and Chalice Lighting   –  Rev. Sue Browning

Opening Hymn insert

Meditation

Joys and Sorrows

Offertory “Dona Nobis Pacem”

Reading

Anthem “I Choose Love” Lindy Thompson and Mark A. Miller

Sermon “Saying Our Goodbyes”   –  Rev. Browning

A Special Goodbye

Closing Hymn “Earth Was Given as a Garden” #207

Closing Words and Extinguishing Our Chalice

Postlude

Headphones are available for persons with hearing impairments. Large print hymnals are also available. Please ask the usher for assistance. Note: Please silence your cell phone for the service.

Accompanist: Ellen Barry Grunden    Sound: Jim Richardson
Greeters: Martha Hamlyn and Carol Meredith

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The text for the Reading, Sermon and Special Acknowledgment from October 23 are below (Rev. Sue Browning)

Reading

An excerpt from “No One Tells You” by Carey McDonald, Executive VP of the Unitarian Universalist Association.

“There was a period in my life when, within three months, all my major relationships changed. The most joyous of these was getting married; Sarah and I had dated for three and a half years, and I proposed to her at our holiday party. …

We married in the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbus, …surrounded by friends and ­family who loved us so dearly. It served as a fitting goodbye because we moved across the country two weeks later.

… The stressful part isn’t the saying goodbye or the move itself. It is the ripping of your life away from its roots, and it plays out over months and years. Setting new life patterns, finding new friends—these things take time and require soul work. You have to go out and make them happen. No one tells you that.

Two months after we moved, my parents, who had been married for thirty-one years, called us up on a Sunday afternoon and said, in a matter-of-fact sort of way, that they were getting divorced. I grieved, … Surely, I can’t be the only one?

Like moving, my parents’ divorce started with a dramatic shift, but the real change and struggle occurred over time. It forced me to question the assumptions upon which I had based my life. Should I make sacrifices for my career? Or should my partner’s needs sometimes take priority? How can I raise a ­family and still maintain my own well-being, or my marriage? Is there such a thing as security? How do we keep in touch with that which is deepest and most profound in us?

When I imagined what all these transitions would mean, I focused on my relationships with other people. Yet the most profound changes have been the internal ones that touched the core of my being and belief. Re-examining the principles that guide my life has given me a new take on my constantly evolving understanding of the person I want to become and the relationships I want to have. It has been a labor of love, if sometimes a lonely one.

No one said it would be easy. …they were right.

(a full version of the reading is here: https://www.uua.org/worship/words/reflection/no-one-tells-you)

 

Sermon 

Saying Our Goodbyes

In day-to-day life so many times we end a conversation or a visit with, “Catch you later, bye.” or “Ok, thanks, bye.” With any engagement with someone frankly we need a way to chop off the encounter and a ‘Bye’ or ‘Goodbye’ serves just that function.

From the ‘goodbye’ we go on to the next thing. Maybe it’s routine. From the phone call to grocery store. From the meeting to making dinner.

Sometimes goodbye is not routine. The ‘goodbye’ is followed by something new. It’s a bigger goodbye.

There are times relationships need to end; the connection had mattered deeply, and change happened, and then ‘goodbye.’ There are the goodbyes when children cross milestones and move away from home. There are geographic moves, job changes, and age-related changes. We can be thrust into something new willingly, or forced by circumstance. There are changes that occur after long discernment or in a flash.

With what is new – the what is about-to-be, there is a rush – an intensity of the moment. Maybe becoming a parent, or a starting a new job, or the first morning after retirement. Transitions come with uncertainty, and come with potential.

We look forward. Which door might we open? We’re usually confident that, yes, there is at least one door to enter, somewhere, if we pay attention. Even in challenging times, when there are hard diagnoses or unplanned endings, we look for a crack, a stream of light, a guiding signal to pull us forward.

There is something freeing in these moments. There is something appealing about not dwelling on what will be left behind. Our hearts are already full enough at these times. And times of transition are busy. Virtually every transition in life comes with paperwork, and calls, and confirmations. From movers, to realtors, and payroll and HR, and color choices.

What is there to say, anyway? We move from a neighborhood where we’ve grown up and played, and scraped knees, and been happy and sad, sick and healthy. Do you say goodbye to a house, or a street, or a bedroom? Or do we say goodbye to those people who currently live on the street, who may not have known the street the way it was?

How do we say goodbye to the current work team, who doesn’t remember the past struggles and shared achievements as you do? What do you say to a congregation that has shifted and changed since you joined?

Do we say goodbye to memories and places? Will anyone notice a gap when we’re gone?

If you are the one leaving something, you may mumble, ‘There just aren’t words.’ Maybe not because there aren’t words, but mostly because the words are difficult, and stuffed deep, and a bit garbled and unclear.

Is ‘goodbye’ worth more than a quick wave? Or is it best to just move on?

Often we rip the band-aid off, often with the word ‘bittersweet’ in the mix, and we cross the threshold and move on.

Mostly that’s ok to do, isn’t it?

It does help if there is cake. An acknowledgement of someone leaving…an acknowledgment of you leaving. With cake comes expressions of gratitude and words saying, “Yes, you will be missed.”

In such ritual acts of saying goodbye, we take the time to notice the other, and to notice the community. Rituals which mark life’s milestones help us walk through emotional times. Rituals set the rhythm and slow us down. Rituals are passed down from those who have come before and naturally create the pause. As we offer cards and good wishes, we put words around what mattered. We name what we appreciate. We name what is about to end. Rituals of goodbye, once in a while, might even include a sermon.

Even the cake part is pretty quick. Leaving is a busy time. And, well, it’s inconvenient to have the rush of emotions that come with too long of pause…the feelings that come with loss and doubt. Just a distraction with so much to be done.

Heather Warman, a leader from Kentucky, describes, “For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction.”

Not all goodbyes require coming completely undone, but goodbyes do mean something is breaking. Old patterns, day-to-day connections, our role and purpose…with the bigger ‘goodbyes’ something fundamentally changes.

Like many transition or threshold moments, there is not a crisp before and after. For a time, we may deeply sense our connection to two worlds; we may experience this more as a phasing out, and a phasing in.

Liz shared earlier of vivid memories of her transition from upstate New York to the eastern shore of Maryland over 35 years ago. A new job, a new location, learning to cook some, and joining the ‘Y.’ It took her a while to realize that with the new came an ending of frequent, often daily, visits with her mother and grandmother that she sorely missed. The reality of the ‘goodbye’ took a while to sink in.

In our reading, Carey McDonald describes a time of virtually simultaneous transitions – his wedding, his parents’ divorce and a move. He shared that while he mostly tried to make meaning of the transitions based on the changes in relationships with others,  in time he found the core of the changes emerged more as internal shifts and reflection on his values and aspirations.

The processing took time. The process included internal examination.

Whether you are the one leaving or the one staying put, what happens if we sit a bit longer with the emotional parts…the part we’re tempting to rush by… the feelings we cannot find words to express; the part of the experience so conveniently pushed behind the lists and practical realities of change?

Maybe we’ll realize the work of goodbye starts happening well before the cake…Maybe we feel jarred and unsettled and a bit unglued leading up to the change? …maybe we second guess the decisions? …maybe we start shifting in our relationships to groups and friends in anticipation? Our head and hearts need to get used to the idea that a transition is near.

Maybe we’ll sense the goodbye will likely extend well past a move, or change. There might be a sense of grief of what will no longer is, at least not in the same way.

If we imagine the ‘goodbye’ as the cracking open of the seed – the raw exposure – maybe we can lean toward an honest goodbye – the comfort of a well-planned goodbye, and the messiness of the turmoil.

Hanging with these layers of experience is spiritual work. In UU terms, spiritual work is about a feeling of deep connection with something greater than ourselves. It could be with the natural world, with those who have gone before, with a creative spirit, or with a sense of the divine, or God. Creating some spiritual space is about taking intentional time to pause and notice…to name what is in your heart… rather than rushing from one must-do to the next. Maybe you have a meditation or prayer practice, or make music, or hike – something you do with intent that keeps you open and connected to the something larger than self.  (Adapted from https://www.uua.org/adults/spirituality)

During times of transition – at the hectic parts, the lonely parts, the sad parts, and the exciting life-affirming, heart-opening parts, spiritual practices provide support and perspective. It’s always a good idea to pause and notice. It’s an especially good idea to do so during times of transition…times of goodbye.

Even with the next open door is in sight, may we also take time to feel ‘the goodbye’; to honor that a chapter that is ending; to sense the gratitude; and to recognize the learning and connections that have happened over time. Let us acknowledge there might be loneliness, or a clear readiness to go, or relief in the leaving. Let is name we may feel we’re leaving somethings undone, and even of feeling undone ourselves.

As we hold times of ‘endings’ gently, may we be okay heading with hope and promise through the next open door, knowing it may be a while before a door behind us quite closes, if it ever does. And may we trust, that this is ok.

An honest goodbye may just be the key to a well-grounded next start.

May It Be So.

A Special Good-bye

Now and then a member of UUFE makes a geographic move. Bozena is doing that. She is moving to Michigan… to a community with lots of activities that is closer to family.

Bozena has been a long-time choir member, and through the pandemic at the heart of all things technical – from recorded services, to hybrid services. She has been a Board member and more. She received the congregation’s thanks as an award last year. We have those details on record and can share more stories during the potluck. The list is long.

For now, Bozena, we offer you our blessings for a move to Michigan that opens doors, and offers growth. We say ‘goodbye’ knowing you will be far, and too knowing our Zoom connections are open.

The tradition of saying goodbye goes back to the 16th century, originating from shortened version of the phrase, ‘God be with ye.’ It offered good wishes, and hope for safe travel.

Bozena, please make this move knowing you are loved by the congregation, you are valued. We will miss you. We wish you safe travel, a soft landing and a next chapter filled with joy, adventure and new connections.

There will be cards, and cake and words at the potluck. For now, these words hold our place of goodbye.

And There Was Cake

 

(Note: The Postlude was ‘So Long, Farewell’ from the Sound of Music, with Bozena singing solo parts.)

 

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