I have spent a good part of the last two weeks saying goodbye. After ten years of work with the Oklahoma United Methodist Church as a program coordinator, I'm retiring. Everyone wants to know what I'm going to do. I'm not sure I have given anyone the same answer. Basically I say that I'm moving on in life, not looking at retirement as an end so much as a new beginning. There is small talk about travel, home projects and lots of golf. But I have been spending most of my time lately just saying goodbye.
In the big picture, the importance of moments like these isn't so much in what you have to say or what you think you might be doing someday. It's about the ending of relationships, the work relationships that have developed with others for so many years. I looked through my Rolodex this morning. There are literally hundreds and hundreds of people that I have been in touch with during the last ten years at work. It's amazing how connected we become, not only with family and friends, of course, but with business colleagues, too. It's important to bring closure to as many of those relationships as possible.
Too often we just move on in life without considering what others think about it. Of course, with some family and good friends we talk about everything that's important to us and wouldn't think about making such major changes in our lives as retirement without letting them know about it. I remember a friend from graduate school/seminary days who after three years of classes and times together just left to go home. I chased him down and let him know how angry I was at his indiscretion and thoughtless action. We weren't the closest of friends, but not even a goodbye? That didn't work for me! After more than thirty years since that happening, we're still in touch.
So one of the last things I'll be doing before I retire is to contact as many of those I've worked with through all the years to say goodbye. It's the least I can do.