Throw a rope of hope when saying goodbye

Saying goodbye is always difficult.
Some of us have routines or strategies when saying goodbye, they build a R.A.F.T..

Many put themselves, mentally, already in the other or next place not to feel the pain of the goodbye, others go through the pain of the moment, cry, feel upset and then, when they have cried all the tears, go over to the next phase. Everyone is free to adopt their very own strategy and routine for goodbyes.

With "throwing a rope of hope when saying goodbye" I mean those goodbyes where we really don't know if we will see each other again. Those goodbyes we say to dear ones and friends who have a terminal illness or an illness that might make it more difficult for you to meet in the future.

This summer I met my parents for the first time since C19, and also my parents in law. A three years gap never happened before. In the more than 30 years I left to study abroad, I always made sure to visit my parents at least once per year.
My parents are 88 and 86, and still live in their house in Munich they moved in in 1988, after living 2 years in Belgium, 30 years in Italy, 2 years in Paris (and my father lived other 2 years in Frankfurt, commuting weekly back to Munich). They want to be independent, self sufficient. But since my fathers eye sight decreased considerably, which lead him to give up driving (his biggest passion!), and my mother's dementia progressing rapidly after a surgery in February, I didn't find the parents I left in 2019. I found two people who are in desperate need for help. A help that my sister organized in the past months "from afar" (she lives in Switzerland) and managed to coordinate brilliantly, whilst my husband and I were focusing on getting my three teenagers through exams (GCSE's in the Netherlands and A levels in the UK). It is difficult to navigate a health care system from afar, when one has never lived in that place – my sister and I never lived in my parent's country of origin, Germany.

When meeting my parents in law, the scenario was very similar. They moved to a flat a year ago, leaving the house they lived in since the early 70ies. My mother in law has advanced stage of dementia and my father in law is so incredibly kind by taking care of her, but it's a lot for one person. And yet, my sister in law has helped and done so much. The gratitude my husband and I have for my sister and sister in law can't be expressed in words. Needless to say, that we both feel guilty and very very sad, not to be able to do more. But we know that our parents are better off with help from non-family members (please don't comment on this, I know that they do) and all we can do is to support them as much as we can during this phase of their life.

I know that many other families went through similar tough times, if not tougher.

Although this summer I couldn't spend much time with my parents, I made every minute count and we made memories of conversations and hugs that will remain imprinted in my mind an heart. I was very much aware that this might be the last time we meet, recognizing and "seeing" each other.

My father might turn blind soon, my mother might forget who I am, so, before we left, we made sure to leave "in the middle of a conversation", which means, whilst making plans for the next 6 months. 6 months where my children will finally know if they can pursue the A levels they chose, start at University, and also 6 months where my parents will have to accept even more help and support from someone else but me or my sister. And 6 months where we all know that we'll move towards the moment of no return.
Those who know me, know that the relationship with my parents hasn't been the best one. I had to process a lot of pain, resentment and guilt that comes with it in the past years, but I chose that compassion and kindness will characterize the last phase we have together. So, this summer we laughed, I ignored the temper tantrums of my father (can't call them in any other way...) and focused on the bright side of it all.
During our last minutes together, I threw them a rope of hope, which is: we might meet again soon. Maybe even in the Netherlands, who knows. Although I know that they won't probably be able to travel alone or at all, I knew that they needed this rope of hope to keep on going.

I did something similar with my terminally ill friends, who all knew that their time would come soon. Picturing us reunited at some point in the future was like an anchor of hope that the time might be longer than they thought. I was lucky to re-meet one of them, which, for me, was the best gift ever: time to make last memories.

I am still grieving for those I couldn't meet again. But having thrown that rope of hope to them makes me smile when I think about them, because we pictured ourselves reunited, having fun, laughing and enjoying life together.


Further readings:
Embracing Goodbyes

Moving on, Relocating and Staying behind

Songs to remember you

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