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

A.A. Milne

Goodbyes are like New Year’s Eve—not so much the party hats and confetti, but the poignant, almost sneaky tick-tock into something new. They mark the quiet, reflective moments where we stand at the crossroads of past and future. In life’s grand celebration, each goodbye is a unique countdown, ushering in both endings and fresh starts.

Farewells are a mixed bag, though.

There’s the everyday kind, light and breezy, like swapping ‘see you laters’ with a neighbor. The dramatic farewells follow, oozing with the kind of tearful intensity usually reserved for grand cinema finales or overwrought airport scenes. And then, of course, the profound ones—those deep, final goodbyes that don’t just whisper but echo in your heart, lingering in their silence like the final note of a song.

“How lucky am I?”

It’s a thought that surfaces whenever I reminisce about the times with my cousin, or should I say, brother-in-spirit, Javier from Chile. The memory of his last visit still glows like the sunrise we stayed up to greet, our conversation flowing endlessly into the early hours. There we were, lounging in the living room, lost in a marathon of tales and laughter, each story outdoing the last. With every shared memory and chuckle, there was this unspoken understanding, a bittersweet awareness mingling in the air like the first light of dawn. It was a poignant blend of ‘see you later’ and ‘why does it have to end,’ underlined by the realization that soon, he’d be more than just a phone call away, back to being a distant dot on the globe.

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.

“How lucky am I?”

And yet, goodbyes aren’t always grand, soul-stirring epics. Sometimes, they’re as subtly poignant as… wait for it… the final episode of “The Wonder Years.” Growing up, it was more than a series—it was a weekly gathering, a family ritual where laughs (and tears) were shared as generously as popcorn. Saying goodbye felt like parting with a childhood chum—the kind who knew all your embarrassing secrets and still stuck around.

“How lucky am I?”

But there were other farewells, the kind that sneak up 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 rice and charro beans, 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.

“How lucky am I?”

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 preparing to board a flight, leaving behind my mother’s 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.

How lucky I am.

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 dish from Antonio’s and as cherished as the moments with my Tata.

Tata never looked at the camera for photos Another one of his lovable quirks
Saying goodbye to Javier while still recovering from staying up until sunrise a couple nights before

Stephen Boudreau serves as VP of Brand & 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 ©2024 Stephen Boudreau.