Mourning the Departed Among Us

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When you hear a person talk about “losing someone,” death is likely the first thing that comes to mind.  There are, however, significant ways of “losing” a loved one to something other than death – something that feels an awful lot like a death, but the loved one remains alive.  That something may include imprisonment, a chronic debilitating illness, a shocking secret being revealed, hypocrisy being exposed, or a personality-altering event/experience like dementia, a stroke, a traumatic brain injury, addiction, or mental illness.  Whatever it is, your loved one is forever changed, and the person you knew, loved, and experienced prior to the cataclysmic event is gone.  It’s hard to find words to describe that kind of loss.

A couple of years ago, I wrote the following poem/song as a way of processing my grief over such a loss.  It encapsulates a good-bye that spanned a period of many years and went through several major stages.  (Saying good-bye to someone who is at once present and departed is anything but a straightforward business.)  Although the process of letting go was excruciating and often seemed never-ending, once I emerged from it, I found myself able for the first time to freely love and be present with the person who was actually in my life.  Looking back now, I realize I had completed a cycle of death, burial, and resurrection.


Good-Bye

I remember how it used to be,
You were always there for me.
With you I felt so safe;
You were my hiding place until
It seemed to change in a day,
I knew you weren’t the same,
I walked into the room and found you there –

Spinning ’round in your thoughts that seemed to come from nowhere,
Fighting with all the dragons that no one else could see.
Where did you go?
Why did you leave?
Where did you go?
Where could you be?
I didn’t get to say good-bye.

Good-bye.

I never meant to scare you,
But there was nothing I could do;
So there grew a kind of distance,
A strange and awkward dance.
When I’d come home, you’d be there,
It was more than I could bear,
I’d climb the steps and there you’d be again –

Spinning ’round in your thoughts that seemed to come from nowhere
Fighting with all the dragons that no one else could see.
Where did you go?
Why did you leave?
Where did you go?
Where could you be?
I never got to say good-bye.

Good-bye.

Good-bye to lazy summer days,
Good-bye to bedtime lullabies;
Good-bye to chasing after fireflies.
Good-bye to talks we never had,
To building castles in the sand;
Good-bye to reaching up to grab your hand.

Good-bye, good-bye.

Good-bye to days of playing chase,
To being rescued from distress;
Good-bye to kisses on my tear-stained face.
Good-bye to time we never shared,
To running to you when I was scared;
Good-bye to saying, “Hey, look at me.”

Good-bye, good-bye, good-bye,
Good-bye, good-bye, good-bye,
Good-bye, so long, farewell.

 

Copyright © 2016 by Judy Wu Dominick. All rights reserved.

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Categories: Poetry, Spiritual Formation, Uncategorized

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