The Pain and Promise of Goodbye

Gratitude Respect


Story: I have been at hundreds of airports around the world, experiencing more than 10,000 or so trips in my life. That’s an opportunity to observe a lot of “hi’s” and “goodbyes.” And like most business travelers, I’m head down, focused on getting to and from my next obligation. Yet, one cannot help but notice and be touched by the tears of departure and arrival that make up every airport scene. Perhaps it’s an excited child running to mom who’s been on that road trip, or a long hug from that aging parent, barely letting go of a grown child living too far away. If a person is present enough to really notice, it is one poignant scene after another, each meant to be felt and watched.

Today I’m saying goodbye to my children and grandchildren after a wonderful family celebration. The pain of that soft kiss and extra long hand-hold is so bittersweet. Knowing that adventure is in front of all, yet not wanting to let go for even a second. If only that embrace could be eternal. Each goodbye is a process of grieving.

It is also a season of goodbye’s at work. Our exceptional CEO, who I’ve had the pleasure of working with the last six years, and a number of other colleagues whom I’ve come to appreciate so much, are all leaving. And I will be retiring from the company before too long as well. It is such an emotional roller coaster to deeply commit, and then one day, literally close the door for the last time. Organizations, as they should and must, swiftly fill the void. Someone steps in and carries on in their own unique way. We are all irreplaceable and replaceable at the same time.

Key Point: Something very important happens at the moment of greeting and leaving in both our personal and professional lives. We have to be exceptionally present and self-aware to fully ingest the experience. What am I feeling? Why? What about the other or others? What am I bringing of myself and leaving behind? What am I receiving from the other(s), or having to give up? Why does it matter? While our work is so important to us, I remind us all of a searing message from a former colleague, living his last hours in palliative care. He notes that in lying and waiting to die, he hardly thinks about work and people he toiled with at all. It’s family and friends that appropriately take up the dwindling space that matters most.

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. Relish the genuine beauty in each greeting and exit. The experience associated with both emphasizes and confirms that we are truly alive.
  2. Remind yourself that work and those associated, while important and deserving of our genuine care, will more rapidly come and go from both our experience and memory.
  3. The best long-term investment for our total wellbeing is in family and friends. That means making the most of what happens between each greeting and goodbye. To be fully loved, we have to love FIRST. Do so generously, and without expecting anything in return. Perhaps, that is a perspective we need reminding of, and that’s what the pain and promise of “hi” and “goodbye” presents. 

Loving abundantly in personal leadership,


One Millennial View: It’s too true. I can confirm that saying goodbye to a large number of loved ones can certainly leave its mark, especially after a great celebration. However, thank goodness for the capability to use FaceTime, and a variety of other forms of communication to see and speak to those far away and in different time zones. Thankfully, a “goodbye” is far from a disconnection in 2018.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis