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How do we know when it’s time to say good-bye? Sometimes it’s a choice based on someone or something moving on, either physically or emotionally. Other times, it’s shoved right in our face, without our being given any choice, as in the case of death. In the past two days, I’ve had to say good-bye for both reasons, or so I’ve been led to believe. Both hummingbabies sailed away: one most likely to start a life and a family of his own; the other, it seems (based on inconclusive evidence), to be used as sustenance for the domestic cat. Mother Nature, or some kind of god (who really knows?) often creates things in pairs, and I’m beginning to understand why. That, however, does not make it any easier for me to say good-bye, especially to the baby who may or may not have gotten out alive. 

So how do we say good-bye? I suppose we all do this in a very different manner. For me, it has always been in a very dramatic way, mostly, I suppose, because I’m a very emotional person. The first real good-bye I can remember in my life was after college, when I left Colorado to make a new life in California. It was a situation I initiated, but that didn’t make it any easier to say good-bye to the wonderful man I left behind. I remember shoving down all my fear and putting on an air of coldness just to convince him that I had to escape to a different life… one that I was meant to lead. 

The next good-bye was the loss of my beloved grandmother, just a few months after moving to California. The irony of this loss is that its full impact didn’t hit home until nearly 12 years later. It’s a loss I’m now struggling with as I watch my life carry on while my grandmother’s own life has been gone for so long. Lately, I often think about how strange it is that a person could be in your life for so many years and then all at once never be in your life again…at least in the physical sense. 

I even struggle with the thought of saying good-bye in the future…to my mother, my friends, and my faithful dog, who has been by my side for over 15 years. I’m not sure if many people think about saying good-bye so prematurely, or if it’s just an irrational obsession I’ve adopted to control an uncertain future. I often find myself in complete emotional crises if I sit and visualize my canine companion’s bed or food bowl being permanently empty in the future. 

And now, everyday, I look out to my garden and see that vacant nest, while feeling my heart sink woefully into my stomach. I knew the day would come to say good-bye to those sweet little birds, and I even prepared myself, or so I thought. But that goes to show that you really can’t prepare yourself for good-bye. It will sneak up on you no matter how much you’ve planned. When it happens, you just find an approach to cope that works that time around. And with any luck, you might eventually be able to look back on your good-byes as a start of something else…maybe even a “hello.”