If, like me, you’re a University student, you’ve probably had your fair share of goodbyes in the past few days. University is a strange time warp – relationships form quicker and deeper when you’re separated from all the connections you’ve made before. So, for most of us, Christmas means leaving behind people who that we’ve come to rely on in a shorter time than we thought possible.
The sad departure from friends and more-than-friends, is usually brightened by the near prospect of visits to each other’s homes, New Year’s Eve plans and birthday parties. This year, however, there is a longer shadow cast by the restrictions of the pandemic. Meeting up with our University friends and loved ones will be difficult to impossible, and we face a month without them.
I often have a strange feeling when I’m saying goodbye to someone. I want to release my sadness and cry, but for some reason I’ll just freeze. In that moment I’ll often find that I feel strangely numb, and its only afterwards that I truly feel the emotions of that farewell and find myself crying.
This happened during one of my hardest end of term goodbyes, with my girlfriend. Coronavirus restrictions and closeted home situations mean that it is unclear how long it will be before we can see each other again. We stayed up all night, said we would miss each other as many times as we were able to and indulged in some thoroughly dramatic displays of self-pity. And yet, it was only hours later at a thoroughly depressing college breakfast that I could fully absorb what had happened and how gloomy her absence would be.
Other recent goodbyes haven’t spared my tear ducts.
My grandfather – always a source of jolly entertainment and obscure historical knowledge – is seriously ill. We’ve never really spoken over the phone much, and Christmas has always been the season that I’ve seen him most, but the other day I decided to call him and check in.
It was undoubtedly one of the most important phone calls of my life. My grandmother picked up the phone and told me the details of his worsening condition, but it was my grandfather’s words that have stuck with me.
‘I often think that life is too good to be true.’ He said, ‘I’ve had a good run, it must be someone else’s turn soon.’
I’ve never heard him talk very deeply about his feelings before, but his words held a wisdom I never doubted in him. My grandpa grew up in the second world war and he hasn’t had an easy time of it; his gratitude for his life, even in his illness, is something that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about since.
Perhaps there’s a lesson for everyone here. It may feel like a cliché, but appreciating the memories we have made and the joy we have felt, will never be unimportant. We need to take more time in our goodbyes to appreciate the very reason why losing something or leaving someone causes us so much pain. And maybe then, however far in the future, we’ll be able to remind our own grandchildren just how good life has been to us.
Image: Sharon Sinclair on Flickr