Over the last two and a half years of the Covid 19 pandemic, many people have had to say unexpected goodbyes. My heart breaks for them and their losses. At the same time, the lockdowns have caused a different sort of loss for me: a season of Non-Goodbyes.
In military associated life, people are constantly coming into and moving out of your life. It is hard to be the one leaving and hard to be the one left behind. But there are certain rituals and habits for saying goodbye to friends during a move, and Covid lockdowns hit those rituals hard. Precious time to make memories together were cut off, farewell parties were not allowed, and the rush to move when a lockdown window opened led to a jarring sense of suddenness, even when the plan to move had been in place for months.
And so I experienced many non-goodbyes. These came in many forms, but they always happened when a friend and I figured we would see each other “one more time” before the move. Sometimes it was a quick hug while dropping off or picking up the many pass-along items that go with a move. Or a wave on the way out of chapel, figuring we would see each other at the limited lunch options in just a few minutes. Occasionally the non-goodbye resulted in the cancellation of actual goodbye plans. In any case, the result is the same: an absence without a goodbye.
Life in transition is always hard. When you live in a community where transition is constant, you develop some emotional distance to protect yourself. But I feel like the sheer quantity of unresolved relationship losses over the last two years has left me in an odd state of emotionally raw, and emotionally numb.
Now that I am the one who has moved, I feel like I have a chance to reset. I don’t expect to see my old friends around my new place. I can connect with my new neighbors without the sense of impending doom of a looming PCS. I can even reconnect with those to whom I was not able to say goodbye now that many of us are on the same continent again. I can start to heal. But I will never take the closure of a solid goodbye for granted again.