In my family, we stand around and hug and kiss everyone for a while. It takes a few minutes to say goodbye.
In Mark’s family, after we hug and kiss, we stand around to try to figure out who will get into which car and when. After the first time we visited, I insisted we rent our own car and say goodbye when we wanted to. It still takes some time, and our own car makes me feel more comfortable.
I have several friends who practice the art of the extended goodbye. One husband actually says, “You have 15 minutes to start saying goodbye now.” The wife takes that time, and sometimes more. They sometimes bring two cars because she knows she wants more interaction than he does.
Everyone figures out their own way to say goodbye.
The one time that might not work is when people die.
I read The Psychology of Computer Programming my senior year of college and decided I could work in this field. (I’d just come off a disastrous team project.) Yes, he changed the course of my career.
I later read many of his other books, including the Quality Software Management series. He helped me think of the zeroth ideas: how do you start something: projects, design, measurements and more?
I took his writing workshop and read (and used) his Weinberg on Writing: The Fieldstone Method. I’ve adapted it to work even better for me, and I use the ideas as a basis for my writing workshops.
I learned from him, reading his work back in the late ’70s when I read his books, and in person the ’90s when I took Problem Solving Leadership and other workshops. Later, we started the AYE conference, and I was fortunate to be a PSL instructor. He was a major force in my life.
This past January, a number of us got together with Jerry in Albuquerque. It was bittersweet at the time. We could tell he was in failing health. We laughed, we cried, we learned.
Last week, Jerry slipped away. I don’t know all the details, but no one expected him to die then.
I’m still quite sad. I lost a mentor, a teacher, a friend, a colleague. I can’t categorize Jerry as just one thing. He played many roles in my life.
Maybe it was better that we didn’t have a long goodbye. I’ve seen deaths like that and they’re brutal for everyone concerned.
I’m glad I told him (many times) how much he meant to me, in his various roles in my life. We joked about how I paid some of his work forward.
I’m sure I didn’t learn enough from him. I’m sure I have more to learn. And, for me, that’s part of what makes saying goodbye so hard.
He knew I loved him, because I told him so. He knew I learned from him, because I told him so.
And, I think that’s the point of the long goodbyes. We want our friends, family, colleagues to know what they mean to us. We love them and we want them to know it.
When my family hugs and kisses, we reinforce the meaning and feelings we have for each other. When Mark’s family organizes cars, it’s about the meaning and feelings we have for each other. When my friend takes 15 minutes to say goodbye, it’s about the meaning, the love we have for each other.
So, my dear friend and mentor, Jerry, I’ve loved learning from you and hope that I helped you see some laughter in this world. I miss you.
The question this week is: How do you say goodbye?
- What’s the Worst Thing You Could Do?
- How Can You “Just Get Over It”?