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Day 16: the Long Goodbye

What is necessary in saying goodbye to someone or something that has actually been gone for a long while?

My paternal grandfather, Benjamin Musser Hess, had Alzheimer's Disease, though it was a relatively new diagnosis in the early 1980's. He was a quiet man who loved Godde, his family, tending greening things, mathematics and more. My father has commented that Grandpa Ben had begun to recede long before the diagnosis came, but it was plausible amidst his already quiet demeanor. By the time he died, most of who he had been was already gone. His memorial service was more a celebration and release than a day of mourning. "The shackles around him have finally fallen off," I remember hearing someone say. "The Long Goodbye" is now associated with Altzheimer's. The goodbyes happen over years, making the final ritual a release more than an immediate loss.

Sunday, someone asked me if I was grieving about another matter, which was a perfectly legitimate question amidst the conversation we were having. I'd just spent several minutes talking about Women Writing for (a) Change, its 10-year impact in my life, the remarkable community and practices I've learned within it. The decision to dis-affiliate, even while staying in right relationship, was communicated to the mother-school this past Friday. I'm relinquishing a huge part of my last 8 years of life, learning, leadership and one sense, anyway. "Are you grieving?" my companion asked.

I startled because while I know I am, and will be, with various pieces that will rise up in the's also hard to grieve something that you've already lost, and a long while ago at that. WWf(a)C in Cincinnati--the mother-school, as we say--was such a huge part of my life from 2012-2018: writing circles, leadership training, staffing leadership trainings, serving on the Board of Directors, sister-affiliate-circles and more. Then my own Central Ohio affiliate community grew to have its own leadership training, with unexpected (and some unfortunate) complexities before March 2020's COVID shutdown landed for all of us. My contact with the mother school went to nearly nothing while all of us simply did the best we could do, learning new skills online and staying in our pandemic isolations. Some sister connections remained constant, deepening, blessedly; most waned without too much tumult. Life moves on...

Today we all are living into new learnings of a more sustainable pace, more plausible connectionalism, and more savvy tending of new opportunities and invitations for what circle-wisdom-work might be in the world. I was touched to write in circle with WWf(a)C leadership women several weeks ago, but realized I didn't know them anymore, really. We'd not written in circle for well over two years. They were different, from their journeys, just as I have grown and changed in mine. They are still the beautiful, generous-hearted women I love AND so much of who we were was already gone, or no longer there, or something...

Am I grieving? Yes, I suppose, but it's a strange kind of grief. An articulate expression of goodbye feels vastly different when the goodbye had been happening of its own accord over years. Freedom to name that is necessary. Willingness is be present to the actual feelings amidst expectations of feeling.

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