The Most Bittersweet Goodbye
Tonight, I sat at the end of a long table, looking toward a gathering of current and former coworkers. Atop the table was an assortment of good drinks, appetizers, and good food. More importantly, the perimeter of the table was lined with people connected to one person. The purpose of the get-together was a send-off to Leigh, someone who dedicated decades to work. They let me do a toast and I lit it up with a bit of humor and a dose of sincerity. I opened my toast with the Andy Bernard (The Office) quote: “I wish there were a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left the good old days.” I reminded everyone that as we gathered there, we had experienced those good days with Leigh and that tonight, we had to face the realization that not only had these been the good old days, but that they were drawing to a close, as all such times must do. Leigh’s shoes can’t be filled.
I laughed dozens of times. I teared up a couple, both due to the people sitting around me, as well the backdrop of time overlapping from memory and transposing itself onto the fact I knew I’d remember that moment for the rest of my life.
I left the restaurant with a fuller heart but also a slight wound there, too. Bittersweet moments both rejuvenate and pierce one’s heart.
As much as Leigh looks forward to retirement, I know she mourns the loss of people who’ve occupied her waking hours for so many years. I miss her already. I try to imagine what was in her heart as she looked around at us laughing and sharing stories.
Part of the sting is the knowledge that endings are a constant companion to our lives.
And if we can’t remember to bow our heads in reverence to the life we’ve been graciously given, we’re doing it wrong. Leigh was never one to get the doldrums about life; she graciously accepts the highs and lows as well as anyone I’ve ever met. Her faith takes care of the rest.
We gave our bon voyage as a group tonight. After tomorrow, she’ll find a new way to focus her energy. We’ll stay behind, each waiting our turn to say our goodbyes.
For tonight, laughter, good food, and a bittersweet farewell to a kind, funny person.
We’ll miss you, Chihuahua!
P.S. Leigh took this picture. I told her I would add words to reach her heart.