Carl Frederick Buechner is an American writer, theologian and Presbyterian minister. He is now 91 years old and has authored over 30 books. The excerpt below is from his book Whistling In The Dark:
A woman with a scarf over her head hoists her six-year-old up onto the first step of the school bus. “Goodbye,” she says.
A father on the phone with his freshman son has just finished bawling him out for his poor grades. There is mostly silence at the other end of the line. “Well, goodbye,” the father says.
When the girl at the airport hears the announcement that her plane is starting to board, she turns to the boy who is seeing her off. ” I guess this is goodbye,” she says.
The noise of the traffic almost drowns out the sound of the word, but the shape of it lingers on the old man’s lips. He tries to look vigorous and resourceful as he holds out his hand to the other old man. “Goodbye.” This time they say it so nearly in unison that it makes them both smile.
It was a long while ago that the words God be with you disappeared into the word goodbye, but every now and again some trace of them still glimmers through.
In 16th century England people would say “God be with ye.” as a form of greeting and salutation. When people arrived or departed from another’s company the parties would exchange the phrase “God be with ye.” Over time “God be with ye” was paired with phrases such as “Good Day” and “Good Evening” resulting in the contraction of a new word, “Goodbye.” We may not realize it but inherent in our “goodbyes” is our prayer of blessing to the other person or people with whom we are with, “God be with ye.”
At funerals that I preside over I often say that we are not saying “Goodbye” but “See you later.” Actually, even outside funerals I hardly ever say “Goodbye” (sounds too formal) but opt for the shortened “Bye”, the repeated shortened “Bye-Bye”, the fuzzy “Take Care”, the parental “Be safe” or the hopeful “See you later.” But I might re-think that one. “God be with with you” is far more spiritual and prayerful, a blessing said over somebody even though they may not realize it.
So for now. Have a wonderful weekend. Goodbye.
What do you think? How does it make you feel?