The #1 Reason To Say Goodbye

Damn, I hate it when my favorite characters get killed off. TV shows, movies, books. It doesn’t matter.

I once wrote a story and knocked off a character I was quite fond of. And like so many of the deaths I’ve witnessed on TV, in movies and books, I didn’t see it coming.


The one who wrote the damn story. I hated myself just as much as I hate the writers, producers, et al who do the same thing.

The most recent blow came in the form of Will Gardner’s death in the last episode of “The Good Wife.” I couldn’t watch it when it aired live last Sunday, so I watched it Wednesday night online. In perusing the social media between Sunday and Wednesday, I saw a brief note about him leaving the show. I didn’t think in a million years they’d kill him off. Dumb, I know.

Now, if you’ve read my Just Who Is This Kelly Woman? page, you know I’m a crier. But I was too stunned to cry when I watched the episode. It came so far out of left field I thought it was a joke.

However, by the looks of the next episode airing on March 30th, I’ll be getting my ugly cry on.

Like I did during the season three finale of “Downton Abbey” when Matthew died.

And when I finished Before I Die, by Jenny Downham. With that title, you’d think I’d been fairly warned.

Not so much.

I know buddy...that's how I feel too. Photo Credit: Jonathan Laberge via Compfight cc

I know buddy…that’s how I feel too. Photo Credit: Jonathan Laberge via Compfight cc

At least Will and Alicia Florrick got to end on an amicable note, and that made his death a little easier to bear. [Quick aside for those of you who might not watch the show: Initially Will and Alicia were colleagues, who then slept together, and then hated each other when Alicia left to start her own law firm. It’s been real tense in Chicago, let me tell you.]

In this episode, Alicia did Will a solid, then they joked and smiled through a few lines of dialogue. You could sense that they were heading in a positive direction.

Now Alicia has to process Will’s death. I hope she feels some consolation knowing that before he died, they didn’t loathe each other anymore. So there’s that.

Thinking about this fictional character’s small bit of solace made me regret all the times I didn’t get to say goodbye the way I wanted to, or sometimes not at all.

This is Grandma Lois, my husband’s paternal grandmother, and the last person I didn’t get to say goodbye to.

Grandma Lois

Grandma Lois

One weekend in the fall of 2011, my husband and daughter went to visit his family, including Grandma Lois.

I stayed home.

It was a normal visit: Grandma Lois hung out on the peripheral edge of it all, with family members stopping on their way through to another part of house to say hi.

My husband and daughter returned home that Sunday, and a few days later we got a call that Grandma Lois had passed away in the night.

I felt guilty that I didn’t go with them that weekend and never got to say goodbye. But she wasn’t the first family member I’d lost nor the only one I’d never had the chance to say goodbye to. One day they were there and the next they weren’t.

Our daughter, however, was devastated.

She said she had talked to Grandma Lois like she always did—a little bit and not about anything special. But, she told us, had she known she would be gone a few days later, she would have spent more time with her, talked to her about important stuff, asked her questions about herself.

Hugged her tighter.

And kissed her right on her red, painted lips.

Our hearts broke for our sensitive girl. Careful not waste a teaching opportunity, we told her that’s often how it happens. Nobody knows when their time is up. That’s why it’s important to let those special people know how much you love them, and as often as you can (like I talked about in a recent blog post).

It’s just shy of two years since we lost Grandma Lois. Every day when one of us leaves the house, our daughter makes a point of telling us she loves us, and hugging and kissing us multiple times.

Like the writers/co-creators/producers of “The Good Wife” said of Will’s unexpected death, “Your last time with the loved one will always remain your last time.”

Make it count.

Who do you regret not saying goodbye to, either at all or not in the way you wanted? What would you say to them now, if you could? If it was your last day in this life, who would you most want to hear from?

12 thoughts on “The #1 Reason To Say Goodbye

  1. Oh this is a toughy. First, I so TOTALLY get the ugly cry. With you on that one, sister.

    Now, to the hard answer. When I was in high school we visited my maternal grandparents on a fairly regular basis – you know, like once, maybe twice a year. 😉 We had just visited and I declined my grandfather’s offer to pick strawberries with him out in the field. I’m a teenager, why would I wanna do that?

    A few days later, he was gone. It was so sudden, and such a shock to my system (he was also the first person to ever die in my life, so that’s super hard) that I wept uncontrollably for hours until I couldn’t squeeze another tear out. Talk about ugly cry. Damn. I had turtle shells for eyelids.

    I’ve felt guilty ever since (and I know I shouldn’t) for not going out in that damn field that day. For not spending that ephemeral quality time with that amazing, silly, quiet, bear of a man. I spoke with a medium some time ago and she said he was telling her to tell me to let the guilt go – and of course that made me cry even more. Oy!

    So yeah, working on letting that go. It does me no good and he knows I love him.

    I don’t hesitate, now, to tell everyone I know how much I love them and how important they are to me. I hope I’ll get another chance, someday, to pick those strawberries with grandpa.

    It’s unfortunate that you and your girl had to go through this, but it’s all a part of life, and I think you’re lucky that she’s such a sensitive soul to understand the importance of sharing her feelings with the people she loves. She sounds wonderful.

    1. Oh man, Kelly. While the strong, grownup part of me wants to say, “There, there. No reason to feel bad,” the real me would be right there with you slathering on the guilt. I’d even lend you a foot to kick yourself in the butt. I have such a hard time of forgiving myself for all the bad choices I made or the good ones I didn’t make. Like you said, the most we can do is learn from those experiences and make better choices moving forward. Sounds like we’re both headed in the right direction (finally).

      1. Yep, I’m trying to take the steel-toed boots off and warm up the arms. No more kicking myself in the ass for my bad decisions, time to get my self-hug on. 🙂

        We are soooooooo expert at getting down on ourselves for being human. Doesn’t serve anyone and it’s such a waste of energy. Unfortunately, in some cases, it’s our safe place, our comfort zone. What we KNOW, so it feels right. We just need to break out of that darkness, shatter those walls, and move into the light. With lots of chocolate, of course.

        And thanks for lending the foot, but I’ll just give you a hug instead. 🙂

  2. This post resonates so strongly with me! Just hours ago, I got a call in the middle of the night from my sister, informing me that our grandfather was in an emergency surgery and wasn’t expected to make it. Seeing as I live in South Korea, it’s not like I can drop everything and run home to America. I called my grandmother and spoke briefly with her, and she seems to be handling it well. He made it through the surgery, but things aren’t looking good… I can’t get over the fact that I’m missing it; I saw them a year ago and I feel guilty that I can’t just be there to say goodbye.

    Thanks for sharing this story. It’s a great reminder – we don’t know when will be “the last time.” If anything, this is teaching me to be more intentional and thoughtful in every moment with the people I love most.

    1. Krissi, that is heartbreaking—to be that far away and not where you want to be. But your heart is there; I’m sure your grandmother heard that in your voice and passed that on to your grandfather, even if it might just be a whisper in his ear. I bet that’s all he’d need to know how much you love him. Thoughts are with you.

  3. Great post, Kelly. One of the harder lessons we all learn at some point in our lives. I know it was hard to watch what your daughter went through, but it looks like she really took the lesson to heart and will be less likely to be filled with regret later in life.

    My grandparents have been gone for more than a decade. I got to communicate with each of them not long before they died (although I didn’t know at the time they would be dying.) I don’t feel so much like I didn’t get to say goodbye as I do that I didn’t really get to know them. I wish I had asked them more about their childhoods, their dreams, their beliefs, their goals in life. I wish I had known them more as people. An excellent reminder to me that I need to talk to people about the deep stuff while we are both still here and talking.

    1. Kit, you get to the heart of what I regret most about losing my grandparents—not getting to know them more when they were alive. I wrote a creative nonfiction piece about my grandmother (she’s the “Mimi” I refer to in this blog post). I include a lot of detail in it about different parts of her character, but that’s all I have. Like you, I wish I had asked her more questions about everything. At least my mom is still here to ask, but it’s not the same. Anything she might tell me will be tainted by her own experience of her, even though that was a good one. Yup, just one more regret to add to the list, right? 🙂

      1. I try not to hang onto regrets. Just to learn from them. Which reminds me: I need to call my parents and just say hi. Hugs to you!

  4. This message is so important… You never know what day is going to be your last.. Either with someone, or literally, your last,.. It’s a hard lesson to learn and my heart goes out to your daughter, and you.. But I’m sure, just from reading your words and about your daughter’s, that the lady will have felt loved… A friend of mine died in a carcrash in November – we hadn’t seen him for ages but then he cane over on holiday to visit a month before and we had the best time – I’m so glad that happened… For a while after, I would worry like crazy every time my boyfriend was out on the road without me.. Now whenever we row, it’s there in my head if we part for work angry – how would I feel if the worst happened? I know it’s hard to life a perfect life and have all the words you say be the ones you want… to always leave a loving impression… but it helps when you stop to think how much people mean to you, how trivial anger can be, and how much you want them to know that the real feeling in your heart is love, every day… in case its their or your last.

    1. Sara I totally agree. I know people say “don’t go to bed angry.” But I think it’s more important to not leave the house angry. I too worry about what my last words to that person might be—I’d rather have it be “I love you. Drive safe” than “Shut up! You suck!”

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