Tired? Yes, I am. I thought I’d found a home
But life in the city is dark and it’s dirty
So I guess I have to go away?
Lonely? Yes, I am. No one knows my name
I’m lost in a place where no one has a face
So I guess, I guess I have to go away?
….If I’m looking for a river that goes on forever
I guess I have to go away.
Saying goodbye is not easy. How will I ever explain?
Everything looks just like cardboard pictures falling apart in the rain.
From “I’ll Have to Say Goodbye” Kerry Chater and Renee Armand Skylark Album arranged by David Foster
This week has been filled with pain. Literally, I have been struggling with an abscessed tooth. I’d had a root canal that didn’t work, and this week when the abscess returned, I had to have it pulled. The entirety of this process has been exceptionally painful at times.
But the literal pain has not held a candle to the pain I felt when I learned about the bombing at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester.
You see they showed pictures. Face after face, photograph after photograph, teens, mothers, adults and kids….Saffie Rose, age eight. My heart stopped upon seeing her, captured by the picture of this raven-haired, brown-eyed, red-lipped innocent.
I have four grandchildren. Three are granddaughters. Two of them are teens now, leaving childhood behind all too fast, concerts attended, many still to go…they could have been there. The other is raven-haired and brown-eyed, yet to attend a concert, but into music on YouTube.
And every time I looked at the photographs, one-dimensional representations of formerly living, loving, breathing, giggling, happy young people, whose lives were cut-off all too early at a moment of excitement, I knew that pictures and memories were all their families would have left of these vibrant souls. And, though my pain was as limited as the pictures, mere reflections and reverberations to the excruciating, unimaginable pain felt by their families, all week the echoes of those losses have rippled through my consciousness.
How do you say goodbye to a child who will never get to say goodbye to childhood?
When Caroline and Catherine, our eldest granddaughters, began to grow up, I used to tease them that I was going to get a brick and put a ribbon on it and tie it under their chins so that they would never get bigger. I was joking, of course, teasing them a bit about how quickly they were growing, but knowing I would miss the moments when little girls snuggled against me listening to stories.
But growing up is infinitely more than getting taller…and every child should be able to experience it, all of it, with its successes and losses, with its achievements and failures, with its loves and heartbreaks.
Every parent’s job is nurturing the blossoming of the amazing potential in their child, encouraging their fledgling flights toward freedom and independence. I imagine there were many first time concert goers in Manchester and those going for the first time without a parent. There was also a young couple in love, a teenage girl and her step-father, some mothers and a Polish mom and dad killed while waiting to pick up their daughters, vigilant about being there to meet them, to take them home safely, who had no idea they were about to become pictures in the paper.
Earlier this week an English friend, Clive Pilcher did a blog post themed around Manchester and Taylor Swift’s song Never Grow Up, that really moved me. [Clive Swift link ] It reminded me of that feeling – the one I had captured in my brick comments. It kept snatches of songs stealing through my mind. Most parents hate seeing their children grow up at least as often as they wonder and rejoice at it. So, too, grandparents. But Manchester made me realize that the only thing that is sadder than children growing up, getting independent and moving on into their own lives, is if they can’t.
“The times are out of joint” says Hamlet at the death of his father. They are now in Manchester and in any place touched by terror. How can a 22 year-old call his mother to say goodbye and ask her to “forgive me” as he sets out to keep other parents and children from ever having a final goodbye? Asking for forgiveness “for anything I did wrong”…he must have at least questioned himself if he what he was about to do was wrong, and somewhere inside known that no parent should ever have to say goodbye to their child.
The world is out of joint.
And where does that leave the rest of us? Where does it leave me? You? Do we turn the page – let the pictures recede until the cardboard of these memories melts into the stream of time?
I say that to pay honor to the lost, we have to embrace peace. That does not mean I don’t think all who participated in this atrocity should not be brought to justice. I do, but we have to try to communicate better than our politicians do that the world will never be a better place for any one when bombs are falling or being detonated. We need to sink our teeth into that idea like Churchill’s bulldog and not let go as long as a religion is treated as if every Muslim is a terrorist…no more true than every Christian is a plundering Crusader or member of the Klan. In respectful, not hateful ways, we need to stand up and speak out.
We, the people, the mothers, the fathers, the grandfathers, the Nanas, have to embrace each other and love each other and hold on tight to our children, and never say Goodbye again.
A Link to Skylark’s I’ll Have to Go Away