The little deaths of goodbyes

I am getting ready to leave Canada’s capital city of Ottawa where I have lived and worked for the past four years.

As I prepare to leave, there are many farewells with friends. More subtle, however, is the occasional realization of having attended my last mass in a certain church, of having had my last coffee at a certain cafe, and of having brunched for the last time at a certain favourite restaurant.

Yes, I could be back here one day. But for now, I am saying goodbye and it’s uncertain whether or not I will ever be back to these specific people and places again. A lot of change happens year to year and the people who adorned your life in one season may not be there in the next.

This, I think, is one of the challenges of uprooting oneself or even of being uprooted due to some necessity.

But there is also something beautiful about it because, as I prepare to leave, my heart fills with gratitude and a sense of the preciousness of all of these particular encounters.

If there were not a last time for certain experiences and visits, there would not be the same sense of their value.

Perhaps this is partly what is meant by Augustine’s meditation on the Psalms: “He begins to leave who begins to love.”

Photo: The Shipping Container Coffee Shop Little Victories on Bank Street



Redeeming the time

Sometimes I wonder about how we will look back at this Covid period of our lives.

Will this time be regarded as “lost years” or “missing years”?

Will we be able to recall events clearly or will they be blurred, absent the ordinarily vivid and communal expressions of milestones?

And, will trauma and grief be suppressed by gradual good humour and selective nostalgia?

In The Year of Our Lord 1943, Alan Jacobs writes about the effects of the end of World War II saying, “As war comes to an end, and its exigencies cease, and people return to a freedom absent for so long that its return is discomforting, they think of the apparent lawlessness of Nature and Man alike…”

A few pages later, Jacobs says:

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