The group of participants that left on Friday morning marked the end of the summer season. It had been winding down for the last couple weeks as group sizes shrunk, schedules became less complicated, and volunteers trickled out. The ranch is feeling empty as we enter this awkward time between seasons, helping out in other departments and waiting for the next wave of volunteers to arrive in September. While I particularly don’t like change, I abhor goodbyes. They hold this pressure to be climactic, to envelop the importance of the shared time and experience of one another. It seems impossible to package that into a few words and a strong embrace.

Valleyview is full of hugs.

Only when we have strong relationships with someone do we yearn for a symbolic and satisfying goodbye. Yet in that case the goodbye is the least important part because we hold instead the powerful memories of thoughtful exchanges and enlightening company. Goodbyes surge those thoughts of gratitude to the surface.

The last time of anything has the poignancy of death itself. This that I see now, she thought, to see no more this way. Oh, the last time how clearly you see everything; as though a magnifying light had been turned on it. And you grieve because you hadn’t held it tighter when you had it every day… “To look at everything always as though you were seeing it for the first or last time: Thus is your time on earth filled with glory.”
– “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” by Betty Smith, pg 466

One of countless recent farewell events