“I hope I see you again,” she said.
We stopped last night to say farewell to a couple who are high on our list of favourite people. When we said our goodbyes, Jill spoke the six words that struck me like an arrow. I can’t get that simple phrase out of my mind.
Farewells are different when age is added to distance. Last time we were in Australia, in 2008-2009, we felt confident everyone would still be there when we returned. Now Robin and his twin brother, David, have celebrated their 70th birthday. I’m 65. The next years are our last chapter. No one knows when the book will close.
In Adelaide we basked in the friendly circle of David’s and Jeannette’s long-time friends. The circle is gradually shrinking. We learned of the deaths of spouses, of hospitalizations and injuries as everyone enters the stage David calls, “ills, spills and pills”.
This visit to Australia, with me now officially a “senior” and Robin entering his eighth decade, is affecting us differently from our last stay. Three grandchildren are growing so quickly they will be at very different stages when we are with them again. The oldest is four so we don’t know how many of their milestones we will witness.
Robin and David have inherited the family’s predisposition for deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Since neither can fly long distances, the twins have no safe, quick way to reach each other should something happen. We are already making plans for the next family reunion, but this farewell feels especially poignant.
Robin has an Australian soul. Much as he loves Canada, he lives with a split heart. So the return to Kelowna will be both joyous and sad.
We know we are fortunate to feel happy and connected in both countries, but we can’t easily navigate the distance because of Robin’s DVT. That makes the goodbyes harder. That and the reality that we are closer to the end of our lives than the beginning.
Death is everyone’s travel companion from the moment of conception. As long as we are young and healthy, we pretty much ignore it. These days, when I’m still healthy but no longer young, I think of death as a quiet, friendly bureaucrat, walking beside each of us, ticking our names off the list when our time has come.
It doesn’t hasten death to be on friendly terms with it. But it does add a poignant note to farewells.