I think about farewells as I write this column on summer’s opening day – a grand one. The sky wears a suitable baby blue with white polka dots. I sit in the front passenger seat of our vehicle, tapping my computer keys. The Preacher, in a celebratory red and white striped shirt, sits behind the wheel.
We’re homeward bound after an all-too-brief vacation. The road stretches ahead, flat and straight east. To the West rise the Rockies, ghostly pyramids in our rear-view mirror. They fade slowly, as do the echo of our good-byes to those we left behind. Some live on the other side of those big rocks and some in their shadow.
God has lavished the Preacher and me with an abundance of family and friends. Many share our Christian faith and reflect beautifully the Jesus Christ they follow. Our memories would not sparkle so without these human gems. They have ignited the plain settings of our life; added something fine to our common days and ordinary ways.
Over the years, there have been too many such people to count. Just now I started to name some, but scratched the list when it grew too long. We saw a few of those treasures in the last two weeks, including my elderly parents. It hurt to leave them behind.
Our time together felt far too short. It always does. We’ve waved good-bye in a few driveways and curbs. Exchanged some tight hugs. Said and heard the things that come naturally in situations like that. Words of gratitude and expressions of encouragement. Reminders to stay well, take care, be good, keep right and “don’t forget to call when you get home.”
But words remain mere fragile vessels. When emotion rises high, it washes the best and most important ones away. Thank goodness God gave us arms to hug and shoulders to lean on or pat for a brief moment. Somehow, that says it all, for the heart remembers best the human touch.
But I think, as the mountains flatten out, that God strung too many miles between British Columbia and Saskatchewan.
As we ride, an updated version of an old gospel song plays on the stereo. It speaks of heaven, expressing words I should say, but too often don’t. So to the loved ones we’ve recently farewelled, here’s what I should have told you as I stood at your door with good-bye on my lips:
“If we never meet again, this side of Heaven, as we struggle through this world and its strife, there’s another meeting place somewhere in heaven, by the side of the River of Life.”
Separations come to us all. But between those who love and follow Jesus Christ, even the most final good-bye becomes merely, “See you later… on that beautiful shore.”
If you get there before I do… save me a spot on a nice bench overlooking the water, will you?