“How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

A.A. Milne

Every special moment writes a chapter in our life’s journey. For me, goodbyes are like New Year’s Eve—not so much about the party hats, but more about the poignant tick-tocking towards something new. They’re those few, charged seconds before midnight, tinged with a cocktail of nostalgia and a fizz of what’s-next anticipation. These farewells are life’s narrative pauses, not ending with a period but an ellipsis, winking at the future like an old friend across the room.

“How lucky am I?” I often muse to myself, usually when I’m doing something mundane like doing the dishes or pretending to understand the stock market. It’s a thought that bubbles up especially when I think about the many farewells with my cousin Javier, who lives so far away in Chile that we practically need a telescope to wave hello. Our last evening together, we were savoring churrascos and volleying stories back and forth across the table. Those memories always have a touch of bitter-sweetness, knowing that soon, he’d be on one side of the world, and I’d be on the other.

You see, goodbyes are like family heirlooms—packed with the weight of our emotions and the patina of our memories. They’re not just moments, they’re the keepsakes of the heart. Think of your grandmother’s cookie jar, not just a container, but a vault of sweet, flour-dusted memories. Or consider the old family photo album, each page a portal to a time when hairstyles were questionable, but the joy was palpable. These goodbyes, they’re like turning the pages of that album, a nostalgic journey through the snapshots of life.

And yet, goodbyes aren’t always grand, soul-stirring epics. Sometimes they’re as subtly poignant as the final episode of “The Wonder Years,” a show that sneaked into my life with the stealth of a sitcom ninja. It was more than a series—it was a weekly gathering, a family ritual where laughs were shared as generously as popcorn. Saying goodbye to it felt like parting with a childhood chum—the kind who knew all your embarrassing secrets and still stuck around.

But there were other farewells, the kind that sneak up on you with the stealth of a cat on a midnight prowl. Picture my 18th birthday at Antonio’s, the Mexican eatery that was less a restaurant and more a museum of my adolescent follies in Brownsville. There, memories were served with a side of sizzling fajitas and tacos, each a culinary postcard from the past. That evening, which I mistook for just another birthday serenade by off-key waiters, was actually my covert adios to a town I knew like the back of my hand—soon to be traded for the uncharted territories of college life. Antonio’s, with its salsa stains and echoes of laughter, stood as a gastronomic beacon of simpler times.

Yet, the heaviest of goodbyes was reserved for Tata, my grandfather from Chile. I remember the airport, the overwhelming scent of coffee, and the muted sounds of farewells all around. I was the one boarding the flight, leaving behind the homeland and the old man with a heart full of stories. He was in his 90s, a delightful mix of wisdom, wit, and his own brand of quirkiness. As I hugged him, I heard him chuckle and say his classic catchphrase, “Buf, buf… para los búfalos.” That phrase, odd as it was, became the symphony of our shared moments… and I realized it might be the last time I’d hear it from him.

Life, it seems, is a sequence of such moments. We welcome new experiences, just as we bid farewell to old ones. Goodbyes, though bittersweet, remind us of the beauty of having something or someone wonderful in our lives. They become the footprints of our journey.

So, while sometimes goodbyes mark a final chapter, they are often pauses. Pauses that allow us to reflect, remember, and relive. They are the reminders of times we laughed, cried, celebrated, and—above all—loved.

And with that, my friends, here’s a gentle nod until our paths cross again. May each of your goodbyes bring forth a memory as flavorful as a Chilean churrasco and as cherished as the moments with my Tata.

Stephen Boudreau serves as VP of Brand and Community at Virtuous Software. For over two decades, he has helped nonprofits leverage the digital space to grow their impact. To that end, Stephen co-founded RaiseDonors, a platform that provides nonprofits with technology and experiences that remove barriers to successful online fundraising. He is an avid (but aging) soccer player, audiobook enthusiast, and the heavily-disputed UNO champion of his household.

Copyright ©2023 Stephen Boudreau.