Where is the Good in Good-Bye?

April 13, 2012 | 25 comments

Where is the good in good-bye?

We knew the good-bye would hurt in the moment we first said hello. We knew it when we bore witness to 72 orphans, leaping and skipping as the gate creaked opened to let our bus through.

I knew the good-bye would cut deep when one of the little boys grabbed my hand early on and asked if we could be “f-wends.”

Yes, little buddy, I’ll be your f-wend. 

I do know what hard good-byes really mean: It means that souls have fused. And maybe that’s where the good in good-bye is — in knowing that it only hurts because you risked love.

But what to do with the pain of these children who always say good-bye? What of this predictable cycle, where happy hellos with visiting friends almost always mean forever good-byes?

New groups of f-wends come in, and fuse their lives with little people craving love. And then we leave a few days later. Another group comes, and in this ever-spinning circle, the good-byes and hellos are nearly seamless.

On our last day, I watched through my Nikon camera as 72 children climbed the steps and found their places. They began to sing, in Haitian Creole, a happy little song that made me smile. I recorded them.

And then, they began their jolly song in English. And I could make out the words:

“Good-bye my f-wends. See you again.”

Good-byes have become such a way of life for them, that they’ve learned how to say farewell in a song.

A knot filled my throat, and a tear rolled down my cheek as I held my camera steady.

The song ended on a note that didn’t resolve.

And we boarded the bus, for home.  And it made me ache for Home. 


(A video here of the children singing their good-bye. Subscribers, you can either click through to Getting Down With Jesus to view the 20-second video clip. Or you can find it over here on You-Tube.)


“Every time I say your name in prayer—which is practically all the time—I thank God for you, the God I worship with my whole life in the tradition of my ancestors. I miss you a lot, especially when I remember that last tearful good-bye, and I look forward to a joy-packed reunion.”

— 2 Timothy 1:3-4 (The Message)


Writing this week in community with The Gypsy-Mama, who asks us to write for five minutes on a word prompt. This week’s word: GOOD-BYE. I anticipate a day when there are no good-byes, only “joy-packed reunions.”

by | April 13, 2012 | 25 comments


  1. Positively Alene

    I am bawling my eyes out. Love to risk. Love to love. Love saying good-bye because you’ve laid it all out there. Your heart resonates with mine. That’s how I feel when I”m out on the streets. Beautiful!

    • dukeslee

      Hi Alene … Thanks for bawling with me. 🙂 … I’m serious. I needed you here, just now. It feels better to cry WITH someone.

      I’ve been putting off and putting off writing this story. I’ve had that YouTube video cued up in my blog drafts for about two weeks, and just couldn’t bear to write the little story that went with it. And then, I go over to Lisa-Jo’s this morning, and see that the writing prompt is this: Good-bye.

      Well, it’s cry-fest 2012 over here at the Lee farm. But it was good. I needed to do that.

  2. r.ellott

    Jennifer…this is powerful…oh their lives is full of good-byes…how they can over and over great new hellos with smiles and good-byes with that same smile. They must know how to live in the moment…drink from the well of what is… What we can learn from these…thanks for this~ blessings t you.

    • dukeslee

      I was so torn about this while we were there.

      As a group, we actually discussed this issue at length: Are we helping or hurting by being there? Is this continual attaching and re-attaching healthy for the children? Does it deepen a sense of abandonment in some way?

      We did ask the people who lead this particular orphanage, and they insisted that what we were doing was good and right. They said it brought much-needed joy and diversion to these children. But I couldn’t help but wonder if somewhere deep inside, it was also very painful.

      The children clearly have learned coping skills. I don’t think I saw a single child crying when we left, even though plenty of us adults were choking back tears.

  3. Nancy

    “I do know what hard good-byes really mean: It means that souls have fused. And maybe that’s where the good in good-bye is — in knowing that it only hurts because you risked love.” And to risk love is only the beginning of a lifetime – forever lifetime of loving and being loved. Think about it this way: each week or two a new busload of people come in eager to love these children and give the best part of themselves to these children, how many people really get to experience that on a regular basis? And when these people say good bye… they take these kids with them, in their heart and continue to love and pray for them from afar. We never really say “good bye” to another soul that we have “fused” with…a soul that has moved into our heart – it’s more a of “see ya later”, I love that! Thanks for this post, Jennifer.

    • dukeslee

      You’ve felt this one deep in your own mission work; I’m certain of it, Nancy.

      I think one of the troubling parts for me, is knowing that there is this revolving door of people coming and going into these little lives. They are continually attaching and reattaching. I pray for them this: a set of parents that will be their forever hello…

      Love you, Nancy. Thank you for being here.

  4. Kim Reiners

    Definitely cried with you today. My dad used to say ‘until we meet again’ instead of ‘good-bye’. I used to tease him a little because I didn’t understand why he didn’t just say good-bye like everyone else. He said it was because you never know what tomorrow will bring. And its true there really is no good in good-bye. ‘Until we meet again’ is much easier on my heart!

  5. Lori Poppinga

    beautifully said as always (how you do it in 5 minutes I’ll never know, but you brought me to tears) Tirzah has still not recovered from the goodbyes from her mission trip last summer to Mexico and longs to go back…the Lord can use these feelings to grow missionaries who live permanently with those who need someone.
    Keep up the God work, Jennifer, keep it up.

    • dukeslee

      Thank you, Lori. Your sweet Tirzah has a heart after her Father… I appreciate her witness for the Gospel.

      As for the five minutes … in fairness, these thoughts have been rolling around in my head for two or three weeks now, ever since I took the video. In fact, I’ve had the video sitting in my drafts folder here for about two weeks. I had these thoughts rumbling about in my mind, but hadn’t put them down in writing yet. Gypsy-Mama’s timely prompt cajoled the words up and out … so it was essentially already “written” in my head.

      Glad you are here today.

    • dukeslee

      I know, I know. Not nice of me.

      Love you, f-wend.

  6. Simply Darlene

    Miss JDL, what a treasure it is to have this video clip. A gift you can watch/listen to time and again.


    • dukeslee

      A treasure, for sure. I’ve watched and watched and watched it again. I can’t get over the fact that they have memorized a way to say goodbye. That breaks my heart.

  7. Lyla Lindquist

    I just can’t get over the utter joy on your face in the photo…

    Other than that, I’m just not going to talk about these feelings you laser in on. 🙂

    • dukeslee

      Hi Lyla. Yeah. I was pretty happy that day. So glad that even when we know goodbyes are coming, God still equips us to experience the joy of any given moment. I love that.

  8. Beck Gambill

    Jennifer what a powerful post! Goodbye’s aren’t good or natural. But the hope of Jesus setting all things right, restoring unity forever, makes them beautiful. I’m working to form a ministry to disabled institutionalized orphans in Serbia. I have not stood yet in the rooms of brokenness and pain offering love and Jesus but I long to. The moment I dread most isn’t the first whiff of disease and neglect or touching withered limbs it’s saying goodbye. Before I’ve even said hello I dread saying goodbye but I’m counting the cost and find it worth the risk. Thanks for your powerful words of truth, they nourished my soul!

  9. Linda

    I know that knot in the pit of the stomach feeling when the good-byes are imminent Jennifer. How much more so for these precious little ones who must do it over and over again. Weeping with you and giving thanks – for the love you poured into the lives will never be wasted.

  10. Jessie Gunderson

    Beautiful. I just love this part “knowing that it only hurts because you risked love.”

    You’ve made my nose sting cuz I’m trying not to tear up! 🙂

    Their little voices are precious and I want to bring them all home with me.

    I’m your newest subscriber!

  11. Marcia Steffen

    Oh Jennifer! There are no response here, only tears. Your words so powerful, so true. Thank you for taking me with you. Beautifully expressed. MS.

  12. S. Etole

    Oh, dear. Tears on a Saturday morning. Love is rarely easy.

  13. Michele-Lyn

    This moved me to tears. My husband and I took our first mission trip as a couple, to Haiti. Haiti has had my heart since then, almost 15 years ago. My husband has had the privilege of visiting many more times, although we dream of taking our family.

    God is connecting us with many people and short-term missionaries who serve Haiti, and I pray that God somehow allows us to serve there, too.

    I love this, “I do know what hard good-byes really mean: It means that souls have fused.” There is so much “risk” in loving… but the blessings of it so out ways them.

    Especially if we allow the Guardian of our souls to protect our hearts, instead of building our own hard walls to.

    Thank you for this beautiful post. I have a friend going to Haiti soon, so I am going to share this with her.

    With love,


  14. Dolly

    Tears for the children – how very hard…and for your tender heart…thank you for taking the difficult path of loving even when it hurts to say “good-bye”…seemed like God gave you the cue to write this post…Hugs to you, sweet friend.

  15. Dea

    I was acutely aware of the good-bye coming even as God placed my feet in Haiti (and Ukraine as well). I had the opportunity to speak at church. I directed what the Holy Spirit gave to the kids. It was from Jer. 49:16. I didn’t want to throw verse 15 up in their faces—they already know that one to their bones.

    I told them how when my twin sister and I were young, especially when we were at school, no one knew our names. I apologized for needing to ask their names over and over until I learned them. I told them I couldn’t imagine how it felt to have guests come to them and ask over and over, “What is your name?”

    Then I reminded them that God has inscribed them on the palms of his hands. I read them the verse out of Jeremiah and I told them about the day we will all be given new names and when we will never have to say good-bye. That last part I choked it out.

    I was blessed to be able to speak with English speaking, Scripture quoting orphan/fosters. I gave them a little devo but they gave me much more.

    Feeling it with you.

  16. Shanda Oakley

    So sweet. What struck me most was how they sounded like African children: their accents. Amazing..after all these years.

  17. Lori

    I hate goodbyes too, I am sick to death of them actually. The only good “goodbye” I can think of is when Jesus left this earth and gave us the Holy Spirit! I think He hates goodbyes too, that’s why He had to give us Someone in exchange for our sorrow, He has never really left us, and you never really leave people, you always take them with you and part of you stays there too! Lori


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