Sunday, July 01, 2007

Vaya con Dios

One of my most vivid visual memories of growing up as a missionary child is leave-taking. When one of the missionaries was due to return to the United States (home) we would stand in a circle, and sing that lovely hymn “God Be With You.”

It strikes me that the English language is somewhat bereft of lovely ways to bid farewell for a time. We say “goodbye” or “farewell”. Or maybe even, if we like Winnie the Pooh and Tigger, we say “tata for now” or TTFN.

I like the Spanish expression for bidding farewell. Vaya con Dios. Go with God. (I also like hasta luego--so long. True, we do say “so long” in English.)

As you might expect, I have had quite a few occasions to say "farewell for a time" in my life. I went off to boarding school at age 5 turning 6, and I suspect I didn’t really understand that, at the end of the day my parents took me to school, they would go home. I was dreadfully homesick, and used up all my stationery in short order writing letters home.

When my parents and we children returned to the U.S., I said goodbye to friends in Africa. Then when my parents along with my brother and sister returned to Africa, while I stayed here, I said goodbye to them once more. My mother decided it would be better if I stayed in Pennsylvania while they traveled to New York City to sail on their return journey. We would not see each for five years, and I think my mother thought tearful goodbyes would be too difficult.

When my children headed off to college, the goodbyes weren’t quite so traumatic. Our son headed off, and that event was actually quite easy. However, when he headed off to graduate school, moving out of our house and into his own apartment, that goodbye was much harder. I held back tears, and felt my throat tighten up. Then I put all that emotion to good work while I cleaned out his bedroom and got it ready for our daughter.

When our daughter headed off to college the proverbial nest was empty. After 6 weeks at the college she first attended, she knew it wasn’t the right place for her. So, when we went to visit her, she proposed that she finish the semester then head to London for 6 months. GULP. But we agreed—you have to let your children grow and go!

After the six months, she returned, transferred to a university that suited her wonderfully, and stayed put for a bit. She did spend a semester abroad, heading to Glasgow, Scotland this time. And, of course, she spent several months in Ghana last year.

Now she and her fiancĂ© have left for London. She will be attending graduate school there while he continues with the bank he has been working for, albeit transferring to the bank’s London headquarters.

Another goodbye. We didn’t go to the airport, but we chatted by phone before they left. I reflect on how keeping in touch has changed. When my parents were in Africa, we sent airmail letters back and forth. A very slow asynchronous means of communicating. I had all of one phone call with my parents in those five years—for three minutes at the cost of $20. Now with email and IM chat messages, communication is real time. Satellites bounce cell phone calls between continents. Keeping in touch has shrunk the globe. But even with instantaneous communication, goodbyes are still hard!

So, vaya con Dios, mi hija.


Just received email confirmation that they have arrived safely in London!


Anonymous said...

Thank you for the update.
With a heart full of love & emotion.
Grandpa "C" & Father "C"

Unknown said...

Glad to know that they arrived safely in London. To a mother who is dealing with letting my nearly 4th grader grow up and have some independence -- just tiny little bits -- I am quite impressed with your calm as you send your daughter off to London again. I'm so glad I have good role models to help me transition from parenting little ones to bigger ones and keep me looking ahead and remembering that these are baby steps for bigger steps ahead.

Anvilcloud said...

I find goodbyes tough. Sending daughter1 to university was really cause for a breakdown. And I just left #2 back in faraway Vancouver.

Mary said...


You are stronger than me. I can imagine how dreadfully homesick you were as a child but perhaps it's why you have a good outlook on "leaving".

I don't say "Good-bye" only because my choked up voice won't let me. I can say "see ya later" much better.

When we dropped off our daughter at her university three states away, I sobbed for the first 50 miles home. Her college years away from home were loaded with tearful "see ya laters".

Leaving jobs, neighbors, and friends always makes me boo-hoo. I just can't help it.

cat59 said...

Wow; I know you say in your profile that you don't like to start every conversation by saying you grew up in Africa, but it sounds like you have had a very interesting life. Looks like you have a lovely daughter. It is amazing how technology has changed the way we communicate. Remember the good ole' days with one rotary dial telephone in the house with no answering machine? Email is wonderful for keeping in touch with those far away. BTW,have you read the Poisonwood Bible? (Not implying that missionaries are crazy or disfunctional!) The history of Africa (now I can't remember which country the book was set in) was very interesting to me. The only other book I've read set in Africa is a short novel called, "Let's Not Go to the Dogs Tonight." Also quite interesting.

Ginnie said...

Most "Goodbyes" are temporary and make the "Welcome Back"'s all the sweeter. It's when the "Goodbyes" are terminal that I lose it.

Larry said...

It's always interesting to me to hear about how different some peoples lives are from my own.-It sounds like you must have grown up in a hurry from your world experiences at a young age.-Goodbyes can be tough.

KGMom said...

Father C--your prayers are most appreciated.

Liza Lee--my daughter's almost first sentence was "I do it myself." So, allowing her to be independent was never really an issue!

AC--oh my--your daughters live almost at opposite ends of Canada! Hope your visit was good.

Mary--it is tough to leave your child at college which is frequently the first big break with living at home.

Cat--I have written about growing up in Africa several times. Yes, I have read Poisonwood Bible--one of my favorite books. And also Let's Not Go to the Dogs Tonight. That is an autobiographical work, not a novel.

Ginnie--oh yes, welcome backs are much sweeter!

Larry--very observant of you. Yes, I think I did grow up in a hurry.

Ruth said...

I have said goodbye to family so many times over the years. If I had bottled my tears, I would fill a tub. Saying goodbye to my daughter last year was the hardest ever. You are right though about communication. The world has shrunk and since the late 1990's, my scattered family has become closer in a virtual sense. I wish your daughter all the best.

KGMom said...

Ruth--I thought you probably had as many goodbyes as me, and would certainly resonate with the emotion!

Pam said...

Even little goodbys sadden me...I don't know why. The big ones, well...

Your "hija" is lovely, and they look very happy.

Cathy said...

Those beautiful young faces! How your heart must sing.

Modern technologies spare us the longing and uncertainty that accompanied the goodbyes of yesteryear.

This parting had to be made more difficult by the recent events in the UK. Yes, Donna - Vaya con Dios.

Anonymous said...

Goodbyes are a way of life for some of us. I understand our parents now, when I left for Zimbabwe, better than I once did. And I understand mother's mother's reaction when she left home better than I could have when I was younger.

Adios. Adieu. So many ways of saying "Goodbye" with God's presence.

Denise said...

I, too, can relate to your throat tightening and heart skipping a few extra beats when saying goodbye. I am grateful for the way we can communicate today as compared to yester-year. I remember when we were first married and phone calls were quite expensive. I didn’t get to talk to Mother and Daddy as often as Leah and I communicate today. I am very grateful for how easy it is to communicate today. If they ever figure out how to send a hug – now that would be great!! I know you are very proud of both of your children, no matter how close or far.

RuthieJ said...

Your daughter is very pretty and you must be very proud.
I talk with my Mom almost every day via e-mail and we're only 35 miles apart. She keeps track of my activities via my blog and it will be fun for your daughter to keep up with your activities via the blogosphere.

Beth said...

Beautiful daughter, and wonderful story. Your entire FAMILY has been impacted by your adventureous life, no doubt!

Thanks for the encouragement as to what lies ahead for me and my own brood as they begin to leave the nest. Just a few short years...