The little toddler curls his tiny fingers and waves just the way his parents taught him to do. His
smile is bright and his eyes sparkle as he sings, "Bye-Bye."   It's one of the first things we
learn as children. How to say goodbye. Whether it's off to daycare, to school, or to Gramma's
house, we wave and smile and say, "Bye-Bye."

I was so angry when my mother left me. I knew she would never come back and the finality of
her leaving made saying "Bye-Bye" impossible. I just couldn't force myself to tell her goodbye
this time. Oh, I had told her that so many times over the years with a smile on my face. Off to
school, down the aisle when I married, off to a new town in another part of the country with my
new family, at the end of a too-short visit, or at the end of a too-long telephone call.

But this time it was different. This time she was leaving, not me. This time it was final. She
wouldn't be coming back. Cancer made sure of that.

I watched her frail body give in to her illness and then... she left me. Angry tears washed down
my face because I knew she wasn't coming back.  It wasn't fair. I wasn't finished with her yet.  I
still had too many things to ask her, and too many days I would need her, and yet she still left.  
Just like that.  She was gone from me.

Surely, I thought, there must be someone I can blame. Someone who must be responsible for
this injustice. I wanted to be mad at her, but it wasn't her fault. She didn't plan on getting
cancer.  She wanted to get well.  She never wanted to die. She never wanted to leave me. I
was so angry that I wasn't able to tell her goodbye. I couldn't make the words come because I
knew it was going to be so damned final.

I wanted to be angry at God for taking her too soon. They say God doesn't make mistakes,
but I was certain that this time He had.  And it was a really big one. But while I was trying to
aim my anger, I suddenly recalled an event many years earlier in my life. It played out before
me as in an old home movie.

My family had moved, which it seemed we did often due to my father's occupation. Mother
searched until she finally found a church in our new hometown. It was our first Sunday there.
She dropped me off at the door of my new Sunday School class with a dozen or so other
five-year old little girls. She smiled her Mommy smile and said, "I'll be back, hon. Remember,
I'm just out of sight for a little while."

Well I didn't feel five. I felt more like two. I didn't want her to go away and leave me alone with
all of those other strange children. I didn't know any of them and I wasn't even sure I wanted
to. I just wanted the comfort of having Mommy beside me. With her close, I could handle
anything, even ten dozen strangers. But she left me there anyway, in spite of my tantrum, and
for what seemed like a gazillion hours, she was gone. I was still crying when she returned and
she was sorely surprised that I had reacted so strongly to her leaving.

When we got home she sat down and tenderly spoke these words to me with love in her heart
and a big smile on her face:

"Remember when I left you this morning? You know something really amazing? I wasn't really
gone!"

Those words struck me as a lie. A Sunday lie, which was even worse. Sure she was gone.
She left, and was gone, and I was all alone. I had watched the door for a gazillion hours
before she came back to get me. I stared at her with disbelief as she continued.

"I was only gone from your sight. I left the place you were in, and I went to another place, just
another room. But I was still there at the Church. Don't you see? I'm never really gone. Just
sometimes I have to be out of your sight for awhile and even though I'm still here, you just
can't see me."

I remember being so confused. She was so sincere and I could feel the love in her voice. She
had sparkles in her eyes as she told me this story. It was like she had been on a great
adventure.

"Don't you know I'm with you always, even when I'm away for a little while. I carry you
everywhere I go," she said as she pointed to her chest, "right here inside my heart."

I don't claim to have all the answers about life and death, or life after death. But I know in my
heart that she is only now gone from my sight. She still carries me with her in her heart,
wherever she has gone, and I carry her forever in my heart, too.  Someday we will meet again,
and the gazillion hours of waiting will be over.

There's a poem about the dying process that uses an analogy of a ship leaving the shore, by
Henry Van Dyke.  As the ship moves out into the deep waters it appears to get smaller but its
size actually always remains the same. It only diminishes in our sight, from our point of view.

We stand at the shore and wave goodbye as it disappears from our sight and our tears show
how much we mourn at her leaving. What we cannot see is the distant shore and the ones
awaiting her arrival at her new destination. While we are grieving our loss, they wave and
shout with glee as they anticipate her arrival with great joy!

It's a new adventure!
Gone Only From My Sight
© Ferna Lary Mills
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