By Jennifer Wallace
“Hello/ Goodbye” is a show that airs on CBC that grips my heart; it taps into emotions that are so quick to surface. The interviewer is good at what he does. Without being obtrusive, he asks questions and strangers open up their lives to him in these beautiful reunions and departures at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport. There is something intensely attractive and universal about hellos and goodbyes. They are the moments we remember.
It was summer. John and I and the kids were driving out to Ontario. We were excited for the road trip, excited to see John’s relatives in Ontario and Montreal. Air conditioning on, we had sunny summer weather most of the way. We played and toured and we saw family. We attended a wedding for John’s cousin. We managed to see all of John’s first cousins and all of my kids’ first cousins and many second cousins too on that trip. We also got to see John’s grandparents, Bob and Olive, first in their home and again at the wedding. During the wedding reception, I got to dance with Grandpa Bob: a real treat. At their house we looked through photos of their 65th wedding anniversary the summer before and other old family photos. We stayed a couple of hours and then were on our way so as not to tire them too much.
My mother was also on a trip this past summer. Her mom had suffered a stroke and my mom needed to be with her. She spent most of the summer helping out in any way she could to ease Grandma’s days and find her good care. We didn’t know that these hellos would also mean goodbye.
In the fall, my family said goodbye to my Grandma Inez. It was the beginning of November when I left the early chill of winter and entered the humidity and heat that is Jamaica. It was a bit strange to be amongst vacationers excited for their getaways as my brother and I went to grieve and be with family for Grandma’s funeral. In the winter we said goodbye to my husband’s Grandma Olive. As my husband left for his flight to join the gathering family in Ontario, it was stormy outside. Leaving him at the airport, I drove into wind and whirling snow that made visibility difficult.
These two beautiful women I knew through hellos and goodbyes. I got to see them at weddings and vacations and funerals too. I knew them through stories and opportunities to sit down and hold their hands lined with memories: hands that held babies, hands that wiped foreheads, hands that fed mouths, and hands that had to say goodbye. These women, Inez and Olive, who lived through nine decades, aged 95 and 89, endured all kinds of weather. They lived through seasons of joy and grief; storms, be it blizzards or hurricanes; and dark nights of the soul where grief gripped and shook their faith. Just knowing that Grandma Olive had been a grieving mother long before I ever glimpsed her pain, gave solace to me. Grandma Inez too knew this pain when her oldest son and two of her grandsons died before she did. We all know women like these two who lived through so much and persevered.
In times of uncertainty and times of difficult goodbyes, I am grateful to know that Grandma Inez and Grandma Olive weathered life with strength, dignity, and grace. They had strong opinions and cared deeply about how their family was doing. And despite our sorrow in having to say goodbye to them here and now, they are delighting in the best of hellos in the sunniest of places.
Revelation 21:4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”