This blog was written by Paradigm Health Chaplain Tobby E. Smith as part of the Spring 2021 Bereavement Support newsletter. Paradigm Health provides grief support for loved ones of patients 13 months after the end of life. Learn more about our Bereavement Support.

elderly care support

My mother passed away recently as a victim of COVID-19. Several of my friends have had similar experiences in the past year. Right now, I have a bit of a numb feeling. A big emptiness. 

Shortly before my mom died, I was given the opportunity to tell her goodbye. I did not have a lot to say, but I was so lucid in that moment that everything came to me all at once. It was a gift of God’s mercy to me, and to my mom.  

I said all I wanted to say, but the main thing was not I love you, Mom. Time, and distance, got between us at times, but love was always there. The main thing I wanted to say to Mom was, thank you and goodbye. 

I thanked Mom for her love, support, and encouragement through the years. I thanked her for the way she had cared for my dad. I thanked her for her sense of humor. I thanked her for the stubbornness of her grit that I inherited from her. Then I said goodbye. But where is the good in a goodbye like that? Perhaps I should have just said bye.  

However, goodbye is what we say to our family and friends when we depart from one another. Usually with the glad expectation of meeting again. Today, we say goodbye without much consideration to practically everyone we meet. However, whether we say goodbye to a friend, a family member, or a stranger at the café, goodbye is a kind of blessing. 

Goodbye is a contraction of the 16th century Old English expression, “God be with ye.” I am a man of faith, so I have no question of God’s presence in my grief and mourning. But the modern iteration of goodbye still makes me wonder what was good about the last goodbye I said to my mom?  

I suppose it is all in how we define what is good? Good often stands in contrast to something that is bad. But the death of a loved one feels pretty bad. So, where is the good? Well, good also leaves the impression of what is right or virtuous. I don’t pretend to fully understand all of the implications of my mother’s passing. I have no problem pointing out some of the good in my last goodbye with Mom.  

There was good in that last goodbye, because: I had a chance to thank my mom; I had an opportunity make peace with her for any areas where I had failed her; I also had the opportunity to let her know that I had forgiven her for any areas where she may have failed me. It was the good of closure. It was the good of blessing the woman who brought me into the world with not only a word of love, but also words of thanks.  

Maybe you are like me, trying to find the good in your last goodbye with your loved one. Here are some possible ideas to stir you into reflections:  

  • Journal about your last goodbye.  
  • Maybe there are some things you wanted to say to your loved one, but you could not find the words at the time. Consider, penning a letter to your loved one.  
  • Go to a grief support group (Paradigm Health would love to facilitate this for you if you would like to take part).  
  • Listen to a playlist of goodbye songs. Sure, it can make the heart ache, but in a good way. Also, goodbye songs can help prime the heart to make peace with your last goodbye.  

May the road rise up to meet you,
May the wind be ever at your back.
May the sunshine warm upon your face
And the rain fall softly on your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the hollow of His hand.

—Irish Blessing


Written by Tobby E. Smith, Paradigm Health Chaplain 

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