Yesterday, I had to say a painful and oppressively final goodbye to my dog Hansel. He was old but he was the best dog any girl on the contrary could ask for. He protected me when I felt threatened, he comforted me when I was afraid, and he soothed me when I was ill. In some ways, it felt like Hansel took care of me and not the other way around. He was an incredibly intelligent dog and had the sweetest heart. Saying goodbye was more awful than I could have ever imagined. I miss him.
So, I’ve been thinking about “goodbye”. Why do we say it? Where did it come from? And why does such a simple word hold such power. Goodbye can be liberating, sad, happy, thoughtful, kind, cruel, or confusing. Basically, choose any emotion and it can be goodbye.
Upon some light (very light) research, I discovered that the word “goodbye” is delineated from the phrase “God be with you”. Why did people say that? Well, my guess is that it’s because the plague and cholera and syphilis were ravaging the world and people were dying all over the place so it was best to part with a nice sentiment to send each other into the hereafter. Just a guess. Like I said, it was only light research.
As to why that word is so powerful….well, I think that’s because it feels final, even if it isn’t. I think that if we said “shark farts” to people in parting it would be just as powerful. Maybe even more so because now I’m wondering if sharks even fart and thinking that would actually add a deeper layer of mystery to the parting. Anyway, I think it is the act of parting or letting go that gives goodbye it’s power.
In case you were wondering why some people say “So long” it’s because it’s derived from the word “Salaam” which in Arabic is a parting phrase conveying the deepest levels of goodwill, but English people heard it and thought everyone was saying “so long” so now we say that. True story. I think that’s probably why it doesn’t have the sting of “goodbye” because we aren’t even really saying the right thing or in the right language for that matter.
Just something I’ve been thinking about since yesterday. What do you think of goodbyes?