Saying Goodbye

26

June 23, 2014 by Melanie L.

At age thirteen, I stood with my mother at the back of a packed funeral home to say goodbye to a plump-cheeked art school (and Hebrew school) classmate.  She had been plucked by angels straight out of her yellow school bus on an ordinary Wednesday morning following a freak collision with a 35-foot I-beam perched precariously atop an all-too-small truck.

It was my first goodbye.  I kept my head bowed and stared at my shoes.  I felt the weight of my mother’s hand on my shoulder.  But, I couldn’t say goodbye.  I wouldn’t say goodbye.  Instead, I said “hello” every time an ephemeral memory of paint and palettes flashed in my mind’s eye, or every time I passed the spot where she had sprouted wings.  Years of “hellos” and no “goodbyes” buoyed my spirits through two decades.

Until one year, I rejoiced with bitter-sweet nostalgia when the township rerouted traffic at that fateful T-shaped intersection and crowned the new one with a traffic light.  After several passes through the new intersection, perhaps only 100 yards north of the original, I found I could finally say “goodbye.”  And so I did with a gentle kiss on my fingers and a tap on the interior of my car roof.  No matter the strength of the connection, I have found that saying goodbye is tangled and confusing.

The weekend before last, I lost someone else.

Someone very young, ten years my junior to be exact.  Someone I did not know well, nor see often, but who nonetheless was extra kind to me during a difficult time.  He helped me adjust to a new apartment after my divorce.  He rescued me from a mysteriously soggy carpet, a leaky sink and a dead mouse.

One day in particular, after my then two-year-old daughter begged him to be picked up, and he obliged, he broke from his otherwise professional demeanor to ask thoughtfully, “What is the hardest thing about being a mom?”  On that same occasion, he stayed a few extra minutes after official business on a Friday evening – a sacrifice the rare twenty-something will make – to light Shabbat candles with my children.

Best of all, though, was his sunny, disarming disposition.  He began all professional emails to me with, “Hey, Neighbor,” and always, always flashed his brilliant white smile nestled beneath his jet black coif dusted prematurely, albeit perhaps clairvoyantly, gray.  In his own way, he helped ease my fears and tensions of starting a new life in a new apartment.  He made me feel welcome in my new neighborhood.  Clearly he embodied the tenets championed by OCF Realty, a company dedicated to a community-centric approach.

How do I say goodbye to someone like that?

I’m not sure I know how, yet.  But I started by pulling out a kitchen chair and saying, “Hey, Neighbor.”

In fond memory of Josh Schwartz, my neighbor and property manager at OCF Realty.

OCFRealty_PropertyManagement-JoshSchwartz

Photo credit: OCF Realty

Josh Schwartz_n

Photo credit: OCF Realty

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26 thoughts on “Saying Goodbye

  1. hellos are so hard. i’m sorry. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Twindaddy says:

    I’m so very sorry for your loss.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. gscstudRyan says:

    I love your blog. You are such a terrific writer Cuzzzz. Talk to you soon.

    Like

    • Melanie L. says:

      Thanks for visiting and commenting on my blog, Cuz. I gotta say, the talent must run in the family because you are a fantastic orator and those speeches don’t write themselves!

      Like

  4. Wellie says:

    I am so sorry you lost such a friend. Nevertheless, I think by writing this post you have not said goodbye but you have introduced him to us all and we can all say hello. Thank you for sharing this with us.

    Like

  5. So sorry for your loss.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Jen says:

    So sorry to hear of these losses. You told this so well and was a lovely tribute. I really loved this line, “beneath his jet black coif dusted prematurely, albeit perhaps clairvoyantly,” That said a lot! ❤

    Like

  7. When someone dies, the immediate family get the most obvious sympathy. Those of us on the fringes are sort of forgotten. Part of the problem with finding closure in a situation like this is … who the hell do you tell? I mean, you can’t call up his mother. Your grief can’t match hers. And you probably wouldn’t have the contact info anyhow. You can blog us, which is cathartic (and really touching, by the way), but not the same as human contact, as sitting down with someone else who knew him and saying, “Do you remember how he used to start every e-mail?” Sigh. Hang in there. I think you’ve found the right beginning, and there isn’t a timetable for grieving.

    Like

  8. mamarific says:

    Amazing how people we don’t know very well can still have a major impact on our daily lives. I am sorry you lost this bright smile in your neighborhood.

    Like

  9. We should all be remembered so fondly.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. blainecindy says:

    Yes, saying goodbye is always so difficult, isn’t it? But perhaps you can take comfort in the thought that someday you’ll be able to say hello again. I’m so sorry for your loss, but your friend was so lucky to have a friend like you, one who remembers him so well. Very nice post.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. TMW Hickman says:

    I like your way of goodbye better than what is expected. I am glad that your neighbor was able to share a bit of your life with you and bring you comfort.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. wcdameron says:

    I love your way of saying goodbye: start with hello. And that is exactly what you have done here. You introduced us to someone wonderful so we could say goodbye with you. I don’t think there is a better way to be remembered.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. This is a beautiful tribute. I hope his memory can serve to encourage those who knew him to be more neighborly.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. GennaClaire says:

    A perfect tribute Melanie. You captured so much goodness in Josh and also how saying goodbye never gets any less complicated, even as we get older. I very much enjoyed reading this piece. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. innatejames says:

    A lovely reflection of a kind man. It’s always good to stop and appreciate the way people touched you, Melanie. This is a wonderful post.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I am very sorry for your loss. Kindness has such a profound effect.

    Like

  17. Marie says:

    I have read a few of your posts. I love your writing style. You truly have a gift. The way your words flow and are so descriptive…I have really been enjoying reading.

    Like

  18. Aaron says:

    I wanted to leave you a note and say thank you for the kind words about my brother. I have had this post as a tab on my phone since a friend of mine directed me here a few days after you posted it. I like to re-read it every so often as a reminder of how good a guy Josh was. I’m happy to know that he had such a positive impact on your life. Thanks again, -Aaron

    Like

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Behind the Blog

Melanie L.

Melanie L.

I'm a happily re-married, full-time lawyer, and full-time mom raising two adorable vilde chayas (Yiddish: wild things) named Monkey and Peanut (not their real names!). I am often seen in public counting to three. In addition to parenting and writing, I also love photography, cosmology, evolutionary anthropology, and all things Israel.

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