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Saying Goodbye

Updated on July 24, 2014

Saying Goodbye... to the people, places and things in our lives

This collection of true stories, edited by Julie Rember and published by Dream of Things, evokes the power of letting go of those people who leave an indelible mark on our lives. Sometimes places and things, too, but mainly people. The stories are short but deep. They don't take long to read but they touch you in a heartbeat.

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Saying Goodbye: to the people, places, and things in our lives
Saying Goodbye: to the people, places, and things in our lives

Saying Goodbye is a collection of true stories about saying goodbye to the people, places, and things in our lives. This is a powerful book that includes a number of sad stories, as well as some very funny ones. Taken together, the stories serve as amazing examples of people saying heartfelt goodbyes with grace, dignity, and good humor.


Meet Just a Few of the People - in the Saying Goodbye stories

  • The mother who left behind jars of homemade pickles in Pickles
  • The woman who teaches yoga to cancer patients in At Gilda's
  • The man who makes an imaginary friend of a dead girl he never knew in Bridget.
  • The boy who says it perfectly at his grandfather's Irish Wake in Finding the Words.
  • A daughter who discovers her mother's last wish in Pink Thing.
  • A teacher who turns the key to her classroom one last time in Turning in My Keys.
  • The sweetness of golden labrador retrievers in Puppy Love
  • The father who plans his funeral party in A Bloody Good Party

What I Love About "Saying Goodbye"

  • I can have a short attention span at times and my ability to multitask is diminishing. I think it is a testament, although kind of an odd one, that I could read these stories during TV commercials and be fully immersed for a minute or two and want to be a part of the story. These days I don't know too many things that can do that. That says to me that these are incredible stories.
  • At first I thought it was kind of maudlin to be expected to read a whole book of stories about loss, but then I realized that each story really isn't about loss as much as it is a celebration of the people or places or things that were lost. I wouldn't be at all surprised if the people who passed on didn't have a hand in inspiring the writers as a way to reconnect and heal the grief. So, as I said elsewhere on this page, the stories are about love, really, not sadness.
  • There is humor everywhere mixed in with poignant moments.

Giving up, I lay on the frosty sidewalk waiting for whatever came first, summer or the Russians.

Gravestones, Cancer, and the Dearly Departed

My own take on Saying Goodbye

It's interesting that I should be asked to write a review for a collection of essays about Saying Goodbye, especially due to terminal illness and old age.

One reason is because I grew up in cemeteries. The family business was making gravestones and it wasn't unusual for Dad to come home from work, get my mom and me in the car and off we'd drive to some cemetery in eastern Iowa so he could take a rubbing from a headstone in order to match the lettering style. Consequently I was the weird kid who wasn't afraid of a park full of dead people. They still seem very peaceful places to me. For all the tragedies of the people who are laid to rest there, there are just as many people who lived fulfilling lives. And everybody is in a much better place now anyway. At cemeteries I feel love and comfort, not evil ghosts and zombies waiting to grab my ankle.

Reason number two requires fast forwarding about thirty years to the months following my fortieth birthday in which I became a psychic medium. I didn't go looking for it, exactly. It just happened. I thought psychic mediums had serious psychological issues up until I started telling people - strangers, even - things about their Dearly Departed that I couldn't possibly know. I've found that sometimes that the opening up of the psyche like that leads to major mental issues as well, but schizophrenia and being psychic don't necessarily go hand in hand. It's the knowing the truth about other people's lives that keeps me sane, more or less.

Also, I know a thing or two about cancer and the stress and grief that accompanies it. Not personally, although I've had that terrifying and expensive dance with an abnormal pap smear and all the procedures that follow. I have also gone into surgery for a uterine fibroid at the young age of twenty-eight not knowing whether I'd have ovarian cancer or not until I came out of anesthesia. (I didn't.) But what I really know about cancer comes from the thirteen years I spent typing medical reports about cancer patients in a radiation oncology clinic, during which time I lost two aunts to cancer.

And as of last summer (2009), my dad's worst fear has come to pass as he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. It's not a lot of fun for me and mom, either, although I will say Aricept is a wonder drug if you catch the disease early enough. When I was a kid my dad used to say that if he ever got dementia to just to take him out and shoot him. He said it enough times that I had a bad feeling about it even then. And looking over the last ten years I can see the signs were there of what was coming. I hope my own alarming forgetfulness is some sort of byproduct of surfing the Web, taking in too much information at once and not the warning signs that I'm going down the same road.

Honestly, it seems like adulthood is just one long series of Saying Goodbyes as you lose innocence about one thing after another.

While reading Saying Goodbye I've been trying to decide whether to get into a business opportunity. It turns out that the woman helping me learn more about the businesst has had to go through a series of deaths of people close to her. I told her that I'm a medium. Immediately the story The Lilac Bush that I'd read the night before popped into my head. It turns out that lilacs were her grandmother's favorite flower.

That's how it works for me as a medium. Somebody, most often a grandparent, will "come through" first and give me a series of clues like that. Later that night I was reading another story in Saying Goodbye and again lilacs were mentioned. It's common for the Dearly Departed to hang around me for a while after I'd helped them communicate with their living loved ones. This was my new business contact's grandmother's way of saying to me, go for it.

It's occurrences like that that let me know that although you can say goodbye, in the end, there is never goodbye. Even in the stories in the book when there isn't a physical death but rather a leaving, love is the end result. And therefore it's true: love conquers all.

So here I am writing about this book at the time of year when my Celtic and Catholic ancestors would have honored their dead, what has become Hallowe'en. I like the way they do it in some Spanish-speaking places where they have Day of the Dead and go out and have a party in the cemeteries. That makes absolute sense to me. Because... despite all the sadness and grief that comes with saying goodbye, there is joy and love and comedy on the Other Side, whether it's death or living through a difficult loss.

From Saying Goodbye to a Faithful Companion:

"Like death, taxes, and The Honeymooners reruns, I thought this jogging suit would last forever."

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About Dream of Things - The Book Publisher

Dream of Things publishes anthologies of short, literary creative nonfiction with the intent of them being somewhere between the Chicken Soup of the Soul books and Best American Essays. Mike O'Mary, the publisher, told me that "instead of short and sweet, I'm going for "short and deep." As I said in the introduction above, that is exactly what the stories in Saying Goodbye are.

Dream of Things also publishes memoirs, the first of which is Everything I Never Wanted to Be: a memoir of alcoholism and addiction, faith and family, hope and humor by Dina Kucera.

Cemetery Storm by Gretchen Little - All Rights Reserved
Cemetery Storm by Gretchen Little - All Rights Reserved

What Are Your Goodbye Stories? - and any other thoughts

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      cmadden 6 years ago

      Interesting that I happened by this lens as it's just over a month since I lost one of my brothers. Your statement that adulthood is a long series of goodbyes struck a chord with me.

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      CoveredDishGirl 7 years ago

      Sounds like a wonderful book. I love the photos in your review!

    • indigoj profile image

      Indigo Janson 7 years ago from UK

      This sounds like a fascinating book and a most interesting review too!

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      RebeccaE 7 years ago

      wow what a great lens, i think at some point this is on my list of things to buy.