A Gift Called Goodbye

July 8, 2013

This coming fall, I will be going into my senior year of high school and naturally, applying for colleges and scholarships. This is one of my essays that I’m planning to use this fall and I thought it would be a nice way to get back into writing on the blog.


In the four years leading up to our last goodbye, my mother was given a medley of gifts by the medical profession. The first gift was just the beginning. With a big tag labeled breast cancer, it showed up in the middle of our lives wrapped in a big pink ribbon, no card or instructions, and alas no gift receipt. Its arrival was marked with tears and puffy eyes. I used to hate the idea that there would ever be a reason that this disease was addressed to my mom, but it was she, that showed me how to take each gift with grace. Even the ones that make you cry. It wasn’t until the end of my sophomore year, when final gift arrived at our doorstep. Like before there was no card or instructions, and no gift receipt, except this time the once ambitious pink ribbon had faded, and the tag was not labeled with a diagnosis to start a fight, just a time: three to six months.

As my mother described, they were the days we had together and the days we did not. And it scared me so much. I had been given a time limit with the person I loved and through everything loved me. To think that three to six months would hold the last memories with my mom was not at first an idea I wanted to accept. Up until then, we had all taken on breast cancer as a fight. We wanted to win; however, it was my mom that showed us the beauty in accepting this time as a gift. And through her strength, I understood that acceptence did not mean surrendering. Accepting this gift of time was allowing myself to have a beautiful, long goodbye with my mom. I knew that she might not be there as I graduate high school, or walk down the aisle, but I would go through my life knowing that I was given the time that so many people never even get the chance to have. A gift of goodbye.

As one would presume, our goodbye brought along many tears, but it also brought memories, and joy, and most importanly, grace. I had listened to so many people tell me how strong my mom and my family was, and yet I don’t think it was strength that was holding us together. I believe that through the gift we had been given, we had all gained a feeling of grace. A grace that would accept even the heartaches as memory of a beautiful goodbye.

The first morning I went back to school after my mother’s death the air was still. As I stood in the grey light that hinted through the French doors on the back of our house, I could feel it aching to be revived by the sunlight. I was ready to go back to school, but I couldn’t help but linger for a few more minutes. My feet paced against the hardwood floor like ships waiting for their anchor to snag the bottom. Usually I raced out of the house in the morning, but that morning I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was forgetting something. By then the clock was pushing me along, so I went to tell my dad I was leaving. He stood in the kitchen, trimming another set of sunflowers from the pervious days’ services to put in a vase. As I saw the flowers lining the counter, I felt that knot tighten in my throat. This morning goodbye would have to take the place of two.

“Goodbye. I love you.” He said as he kissed my forehead and held me, backpack and all, a little tighter than most mornings.

Walking through the halls to my first class, I couldn’t help but wonder if the people I passed had said goodbye to their mothers that morning or if they hugged their fathers before walking out the door. I hope they did; even the smallest goodbyes are gifts.


18 Responses to “A Gift Called Goodbye”

  1. Francine Says:

    Sweetheart, it is BEAUTIFUL!!! I Love you!

  2. Wendy Kenville Says:

    Your words are a gift to help all remember why everyday is important. Best of luck as you head into this next journey…I am sure your Mom is smiling on all you do!

  3. Betsy Says:

    Love. This. Please tell us that college is leading you toward a vocation of written word. You have a gift.

  4. You do your mother proud. Beautiful.

  5. karen missler Says:

    You have a great gift, one of communicating your feelings on to paper, with great emotion. I hope you will continue to use this gift.

  6. This is such a beautiful essay. Thank you for sharing it on the blog. Your family and your mother continue to be an inspiration to many; your willingness to share the pain and love experienced through death touches many. Thank you.

  7. Jennifer McCoy Says:

    You have been given another gift. That of wisdom! I know your Mom is looking down, ever so proud, on you. The gift of goodbye, so true! I lost my Dad to cancer when I was 23yrs. He had just turned 49yrs. I didn’t get to say that last goodbye although I had seen him two months prior. You can live with regret or you can live in the light knowing your gifts can inspire and help others. No matter your choices in the future, continue to write, continue to heal and know you are blessed beyond measure. Your Mom was an inspiration and you are as well. Wishing you much success in your future endeavors!

  8. Mimi Lindsay Says:

    Beautiful! You have the gift of words just like your mother. So many people are proud of the wonderful young lady that you have become and with such strength. You know that your mother is the proudest of all!

  9. Kim Mosley Says:


    We love your post and would like to use it in our next Buddhist blog journal. May we?

    Hi to Doug!


  10. Welcome back to the world of written words, Erin. These are a gift to me (and all the readers, I’m sure) as were the words written by your mom. Please, keep on with it.
    Our little Monday Morning group has seen so many others go on to memory since your mom did. It never gets easier. This blog keeps me in touch with your mom–she was such a powerful member of our dancing-with-cancer group. Never forgotten.

  11. Tish Chism Says:

    I was so excited when I saw this in my newsfeed! So great to hear from you again! You definitely have your Mom’s gift of writing and making us feel like we are part of your family. I love following your family’s journey, please continue to write!

  12. Mama Says:

    Erin this was just beautiful. I am so proud of you. I was worried that you would not go back to the blog and write. So many people will be so very happy to read this and know that you will carry on with your Mom’s blog. Your Mom is smiling down on you today and I can hear her telling all the angels “that’s my daughter.”

  13. Carolyn Engel Says:

    Erin, I was very happy to see this in my e-mail. You definitely have your Mom’s gift of writing and expressing your feelings on paper. This is a beautiful essay and a wonderful tribute to your Mom. Thanks for sharing with everyone. I’m sure your Mom is very proud!

  14. Chrissie Mcconnell Says:

    Erin- I know you are doing just what your mom would want, continue to write in this blog! You are so very talented, thank you for sharing. The sunflowers are growing tall in the garden, and their happy faces will begin smiling soon. I often think of the wisdom your mom shared with us along the journey. I wish you the best in the college search and decisions to be made.

    -Chrissie (former Cancer Support Monday Marvel)

  15. Michelle Says:

    This is one of the best essays I’ve ever read. Initially I thought I was biased because i knew your mom. But, no, you are a wonderful writer. Any college or university would be lucky to have you.

  16. british5 Says:

    Erin – I used to get so excited when it would pop up that your mom had written in her blog! To my surprise It popped up — RonnieGaubatz! The thrill that you gave me – seeing that … and then reading your essay just sent chills down my spine. Your mother passed on her wonderful gift to you, that of a talented writer. Whether you continue with this as a career or not, please do not stop writing. You inspire. Best of luck in your senior year and your college search. I was one of your mom’s Monday Morning buddies 🙂 susie

  17. Shelley Schulte Says:

    Thank you for sharing Erin. You are a gifted writer. And a family that has touched my life forever.

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