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Elena LaVictoire considers the pain of saying goodbye, and the need to cling to faith while moving on.

When I was 12 years old, my father came to visit.

It was a momentous event. My father lived on the other side of the country and I had only seen him a few times before that. His very existence was a mystery to me. It was the reaction of the others in our household that made me confused. My mother wasn’t with him, but she wanted us to be excited to see him. My grandmother seemed to hate him. She warned us that he might try to steal my sister and me away. That scared us. I had very mixed emotions about his visit.

But when Dad came, we had a very nice visit. He seemed gentle and kind, and I remember thinking that I didn’t need to be so guarded around him. But the peace was not to last. My grandmother got mad about some infraction and started to rage against him as the rest of us stood silently by. I felt paralyzed. When she finally told him to get the hell out of her house he turned to leave. I remember then begging my grandmother to let him stay and was stunned to find her anger turned on me. “Then you can get the hell out too.”

As hurtful as that was, it didn’t stop me from running after my father and begging him to stay. I’m not sure what kind of logic I used, but my 12-year-old self was trying to say, “Just stay for me. Stay because of me. Can’t I just be enough?”

Of course, I wasn’t. How could I be? I didn’t understand grownup things or family dynamics. There were things going on between the adults in my life that I’m still not sure I fully understand. It was years before I saw my father again. But I do know that his leaving had nothing to do with me, and I never could have made him stay.

Sometimes it takes a long time for me to learn a lesson. Over the years, I’ve had other people come into and go out of my life. Not always dramatically, and most of the time very organically. Friends, family, employers, employees, teachers … as life proceeds, people move on. What I’ve accepted is that this is not desertion, it’s just life.

It still hurts a little when it happens. Saying goodbye is always painful. God understands. Jesus felt lonely and deserted in the garden of Gethsemane when His friends could not be present with Him, but He understood their weakness. Later, I’m sure the apostles felt saddened immediately after His death and resurrection. Yet still later, they too left people and lives behind so they could spread the Gospel and build the Church.

COVID has put barriers between people and caused division. Families don’t get together, and friends stay away. And this being an election year just adds fuel to that fire. Relationships strain and bend. Some break. It’s always sad. But I no longer cling to one-sided relationships that have run their course or changed direction. Instead, I strive to be a woman of faith, letting go, praying for grace, and putting my hope in the One that will never leave me: my Heavenly Father.

Saying goodbye is always painful. God understands. #catholicmom

Copyright 2020 Elena LaVIctoire
Image: Deposit Photos (licensed by author)