Is it ever easy to say “farewell”? Not the kind you say to end a bad job, relationship, or addiction. But when this life, this body ends, can it ever be easy to say goodbye? I know it is not easy for those left behind. And I can imagine it is even harder for the person moving on.
Two passings came up today: a friend’s grandmother and Elizabeth Edwards. My friend recently returned from his wedding, and I asked about his grandmother. She had been sick, and he had taken time off from a very stressful, demanding job to spend some time with her. He made it in time to see her – she held on until he was at her side, and passed the next day, just three days before his wedding.
This afternoon, I read that Elizabeth Edwards had stopped her cancer treatment, on the advice of her doctors, and posted a farewell message to her friends on her Facebook page. For some, this may be a strange way to say goodbye, but in this age of social media, it is also oddly enough, a very personal one– a person can reflect and leave her final thoughts and emotions unchallenged and possibly immortalized instantaneously on the page. As I rode the elevator this evening to dance class, I learned Ms. Edwards died. A screen on the elevator announced her death below a picture of her, hair cropped and smiling. She was said to be surrounded by her family when she passed.
My friend knew that I had lost my father to cancer, and his grandmother had also had this disease. To him, it was one of the worst deaths a person could endure. It is also one of the hardest ways to face mortality, for everyone involved.
Death can be a very personal, private transition. It is the one certain, unifying thing in all our lives. Perhaps it does not matter at all whether the farewell is on a Facebook page, or an email, or a blog post, or whatever other media is out there. And it is likely nowhere near as hard as saying goodbye in person. But what is amazing to me is the courage and strength in those brave enough to actually say goodbye, and the grace and resilience of those of us willing to accept it.