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Since It Must Be So

“For Sayonara, literally translated, ‘Since it must be so,’ of all the good-bys I have heard is the most beautiful. Unlike the Auf Wiedershens and Au revoirs, it does not try to cheat itself by any bravado ‘Till we meet again,’ any sedative to postpone the pain of separation. It does not evade the issue like the sturdy blinking Farewell. Farewell is a father’s good-by. It is – ‘Go out in the world and do well, my son.’ It is encouragement and admonition. It is hope and faith. But it passes over the significance of the moment; of parting it says nothing. It hides its emotion. It says too little. While Good-by (‘God be with you’) and Adios say too much. They try to bridge the distance, almost to deny it. Good-by is a prayer, a ringing cry. ‘You must not go – I cannot bear to have you go! But you shall not go alone, unwatched. God will be with you. God’s hand will over you’ and even – underneath, hidden, but it is there, incorrigible – ‘I will be with you; I will watch you – always.’ It is a mother’s good-by. But Sayonara says neither too much nor too little. It is a simple acceptance of fact. All understanding of life lies in its limits. All emotion, smoldering, is banked up behind it. But it says nothing. It is really the unspoken good-by, the pressure of a hand, ‘Sayonara.” – Anne Morrow Lindbergh, North to the Orient

The very best part of coming out the other side of this pandemic, fully vaccinated and more than ready to get on with things, is getting reacquainted face-to-face with the people who you’ve built lifetime relationships with. It was seeing my father in person for the first time in two years a few weeks ago. And seeing a group of people I hadn’t seen since Christmas 2019 yesterday. The reunions are always special, and now always involve some version of How was it for you?

And what then? We part ways and go back to knowing each other from apart. Fresh memories instead of stretching the mind for highlights. Will we see each other again soon or was this a quick stepping stone to another few years, or really, will we ever see each other again? The presumption is yes, because we live in a time where there’s generally a good probability that we will. But what if we don’t?

Lindbergh clarifies this moment of goodbye and the things we say to each other in the moment. The moment for me is a celebration of what we’ve just shared in our short time together, less a reflection that we might not cross paths again. Call me an optimist if you will.

The stoic in me recognizes the fragility of the moment. I was at a birthday party yesterday, looked around at all the people celebrating their newfound freedom to be together and saw that nobody was taking pictures. For the record, I do this at every event, and generally I’m the one pulling out the camera phone and taking photos to lock the moment in photographs. For photos are more reliable than memory. Photos travel through time, awakening old memories and even past our lifetimes to introduce us to people we will never meet. Long after our goodbyes and Sayonaras, that picture may still exist.

Since our separation must be so, I wish you good health and a moment when we might be together again to celebrate this short time with you once again. Reunions seem more tenuous than before, but surely more special than they ever were. So here is my acceptance of fact: this moment will not last, so since it must be so I’m making the very best of it while it does.

Happy Father’s Day.

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