On Saying Goodbye…


David Dendy and his 90 year old “girlfriend” Bettie Lively!

The anticipation was great. At 10:04 am yesterday morning with bated breath I knocked on the door of her apartment. I heard her approach. The door knob turned and the door swung open with my girlfriend’s fifty-seven inch tall frame standing there with her bright eyes looking up to mine. Her sweet upbeat voice sounded exasperated as she said, “Where have you been?! I’ve been waiting all morning for you.” (I was four minutes late.)

Her arms shot up in the air as I bent my seventy-four inch tall frame down to meet her diminutive stature. We embraced and as we parted, her ninety-year old hands clasped the sides of my face as she planted a “smooch” right on my lips. We laughed in spite of ourselves.

We sat down in our usual spots and the hour long conversation began.
I gave her a signed copy of my book (Seeing God at Work Every Day – The Forty-Day Challenge… available at Amazon.com). She was thrilled to know that I had undertaken the task of writing a book. It fit perfectly on her little lap and she held on to it the whole time we talked as if it were some treasured family heirloom.

I told stories that I have told her hundreds of times before. Because of her memory loss issues, each retelling of the same ol story is met with glee, wonder and awe as Bettie many times replies, “You don’t mean it! Did that really happen? Oh my…”

Yes, Bettie, they really did happen. And that is what is so wonderful about our relationship. It is built on 20 plus years of laughter, tears, unbelievable and ridiculous stories of frivolity and much, much more.

One of my favorite stories of Bettie that I will take to my grave is about eighteen years ago she said to me, “David, I am old enough to be your grandmother. Twenty years earlier I would have been old enough to be your mother. And twenty years before that I would have run off with you!” I have no doubt we would have!!

The conversation came around to “what else is going on in your life David.”
And then I broke the news…
I am moving to Las Vegas to be the pastor of the Mountain View Presbyterian Church.
Bettie’s arms went up in the air as she proclaimed, “Oh that’s wonderful!”
She followed that up with, “When do you leave?”
“This Sunday” was my reply as I watched the wheels in her ninety year old brain churn away, processing the timeline of what I had just stated.

Her eyes moistened, her face became a little scrunched and she looked right at me through her spectacles and said, “So…this is the last time I am going to see you…”

I hesitated in my response and then finally said the word that was on the tip of my quivering lip, “Yes…”

We both cried in the reality of our impending circumstance. She waved her hands in front of her face as some women are wont to do, as if the waving of the hands in front of our teared up eyes will somehow make the flowing tears dry up.

The conversation continued for another twenty minutes or so..
She told me about how great her life has been and how she is ready for the Lord to take her.
She said, “David, every now and then someone really special comes along in your life and you never want to say goodbye. You are one of those people for me David.”
I nodded in agreement.
Bettie lives in a retirement home and she lamented about the population of the home by saying, “It is so hard here in some respects. Every day someone is dying and it is so hard to say goodbye over and over, day after day.”
I nodded in agreement. (What else was I going to do…)

I knelt before her and I took her little hands into my big hands. Feeling the softness of her aged hands against mine, humbled me to the core as I contemplated the number of years those hands had lived and clasped in prayer and reached out in love and held others in sweet care.

How blessed am I to have been held by those hands.
I offered a prayer through choked up tears.
We walked to the door and kissed each other and with me standing on one side of the threshold and with Bettie on the other side holding the door exactly the same way she held it one hour before, I looked down at her and she looked up at me and with great love in our voices we said, “Goodbye…”


What is it about saying, “Goodbye” that is so difficult?
If I spent a good thirty minutes on this I have no doubt that I could articulate an answer in a way that would strike at the heart of the matter. But in another sense, if I did that I just might be limiting my experience and your experience by the confounds of some written down English words.

So… how about if you let your own mind and heart ponder that thought…
What is it about saying, “Goodbye” that is so difficult?

I have had to say “goodbye” to a number of people recently. It is difficult, heartbreaking and challenging.
Even when Jesus went to the tomb of his friend Lazarus, Jesus wept. (John 11:35).

And so in my ever increasing desire to be like Jesus, I will do the same…
on saying goodbye to Bettie…
and to many others…

Laugh often and Fear not! (Cry often too!)


PS – I have included a video by one of my favorite artists, Michael W. Smith singing, “How to Say Goodbye”