How Do You Say Goodbye?

I was thinking about saying goodbye last week. I’ve been in groups where people slip away. Yes, they leave without saying goodbye. That’s not my style.

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.

Jerry Weinberg died last week. He was a giant in the field of bringing humanity into software development. See his Wikipedia page for more details.

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.

On this site, I use the Rule of Three, Rule Transformation, and the Satir Change Model all the time. Those are just three things I learned from him.

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?

14 thoughts on “How Do You Say Goodbye?

  1. Marsha Browne

    Johanna, that was NOT what I expected to read this morning. I am so sad, hearing that Jerry passed, and I am sure it must be a terrible shock to Dani and the rest of his friends and family. I don’t add “associates” or “students” to the list, because he made everyone he met feel as if they were part of his family, and I guess in a big way, we were.

    I, too, learned much from him, and he helped me in a way he couldn’t have anticipated, and so was a very personal “transforming agent” for my life when we met.

    I know his memory is going to live on, and I can only hope saying this goodbye to him can be softened for you, knowing how much love and high regard people had for him.

    1. johanna Post author

      Marsha, yes, we were all part of his extended family. One way to keep his work and life alive is to purposefully remember him. I intend to do so.

  2. Greg Tutunjian

    Hi Johanna,

    I am very saddened to learn that Jerry Weinberg passed away last week. I also started reading his work in the 70’s and think of him as a persistent voice for people-centric software development practices. I never had the good fortune to meet him, but I like to think his work encouraged me to take a people-first approach to planning, development and delivery (versus focusing almost exclusively on development, which I continue to see too much of today.)

    Thank you for sharing this news (as difficult as it had to be to commit to writing up here.) Elegant note and tribute.

  3. Jim Grey

    I never met Jerry but I’ve read a great deal of his work. Through it he has become the single greatest influence on how I think about delivering software.

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