Reflections on Goodbyes and Pachangas
It’s the unsaid “goodbyes” that hurt most. We moved and people disappeared from my world when we started over in a new town, a new church, a new school. Yet, the disappeared haunt my memory in the vague forms and incomplete sketches imagined by my younger self.
My music teacher, Mrs. Good, for example. Her phantom smile takes up her whole face. She felt safe and full of life. Then there’s that one generous Sunday School teacher who took me to get ice cream after I memorized Psalm 100 and recited it to her. She’s now a vague womanly form in my memory, with her silent husband standing beside her.
Considering how fleeting our contact was, isn’t it something that the imprint of their kindness remains?
My own Aunt Sharon would be among them, as she was for decades, were it not for social media and our happy rediscovery of each other.
And there are so many others to whom I never bid farewell. The unacknowledged grief at their loss remains bottled and capped as tight as the clinching of my jaw.
This time it’s different. Nobody is chiding me to wipe the sad look off my face and replace it with a smile. Alone in my office, I choose to make space for the sadness signaled by the welling up of tears and the tight lump in my throat when I think of my dear coworker friends and how I won’t be seeing them much after Friday. It’s okay to cry over sad things.
I’ve chosen the exact day of the severing. Doug is coming to help me take all my personal belongings out of my office on Friday.
Friday is the day after my birthday pachanga. In this little community birthdays are seriously celebrated. We share food and stories and we laugh until we hold our stomachs and use our napkins to dab our tears. And even though I can’t understand every joke in Spanish, it doesn’t matter because I understand the language of laughter and of love.
There will be a decorated cake and everyone will sing the cha-cha-cha version of birthday happiness over me. I’ll blow out the candles (even if pandemic politeness requires that I first remove them from the cake).
We’ll savor the cake and ice cream and at a pause in the conversation someone will say, “Your presents, you have to open the gifts!” Someone will hand me each gift and I’ll slowly open the card first, and the whole group will ooohhh and ahhh when the present is held up for all to admire. I’ll be truly humbled by the thoughtfulness of every giver, grateful to be seen, known, and loved. Every person on earth should experience a pachanga for their birthday at least once. I count myself most favored to have been the birthday girl for eight years in a row.
For the disciples a ritual Holy Meal in the Upper Room with Jesus precedes his Passion and Death on Good Friday. So, it seems fitting that the sacred rites of my last pachanga with my friends should usher in a cross of sorrowful goodbyes for me. I take comfort in knowing that awaiting us all is the glory of Resurrection Life where we will be seen, known, and loved in ways that outshine our wildest dreams.