Saying ‘goodbye’ to the same ghost that haunted me

In his special way, Gerard tells us why, like The Script, he feels there is no 'good' in 'goodbye'. Check out his latest WordSmith column...

My love-Story? I forgot to write it last week! Perhaps that’s St Valentine telling me to keep my cap on love-talk, for the moment.

For now, I’ve another ghost story for you. It began the other morning while I wandered around my favourite place, a world of my own. “Gerard!” my name call pulled me back onto main street. I turned to see a friend approaching. As she neared I noticed her radiant glow, “You look fantastic; how was your holiday?” I asked. She smiled, “Great.” Then she looked wistful and added, “But the goodbye is hard when they’re so far away.”

We parted ways to start our days. But on walking away, I felt the touch of an old ghost. And rather than run away from it, I let it linger while I wrote this column.

It was one of my friend’s words that brought the ghost back: goodbye. I believe ‘goodbye’ is a ghost that haunts us all in some way. As a child, the monster under my bed was goodbye. I feared the upset it caused so much. Goodbye haunted me every moment of every day during my last childhood Summer in Manchester. All the kids on our council estate had experienced primary school together, we’d forged firm friendships. That Summer they were all excited about starting secondary school together, except me. I wouldn’t be attending second level with them; but I didn’t divulge that. Whenever someone brought up the subject of school, I’d make an excuse and slope away. As September approached and the ghost of goodbye got ever closer, I made like Shaggy from Scooby-Doo and scarpered from it. I came to school in Ireland without saying, “Goodbye,” to a single friend in England.

A lifetime later I was ready to leave London and return to Cavan. Being relatively grown-up, I completed all the official, “Goodbyes,” with work colleagues, etc. But, as I entered the local newsagents to renew my Oyster Card, the ghost reappeared.

The spectre emerged while I bantered with the newsagent, a man whose company I’d grown fond of over the years. His warm smile and chitter-chatter always eased the dread of Monday morning. When he handed me my FINAL London Travel Card, he said as always, “See you next week, Gerry.” I hadn’t told him I was leaving London; and fearing I might cry if I said, “Goodbye,” I didn’t say it. Instead, I nodded, “Yeah, I’ll see you then.”

On my way out, I turned back to say it. He was serving another customer, shamefully I called over, “You take care, and say hello to Darika for me.” I saw fleeting confusion in his face. Yet when he raised his hand and waved, I know he knew. My ‘hello’ to his wife was all the ‘goodbye’ I could give.

The band ‘The Script’ sang, “Where’s the good in goodbye?” in their song ‘No good in goodbye.’ We all have varying degrees of ‘goodbye’ fear. Maybe that’s why we drop the ‘good’ in favour of our ubiquitous, “Bye, bye, bye, bye…”

And I love how we’ve developed phrases to put some good in ‘goodbye.’ There’s the optimism in the upbeat, “I’ll talk to ya.” Or the inherent caring in, “Take it easy.” And then there’s my favourite; in our world where mental health is an increasing issue, the mindfulness in, “Mind yourself,” always hugs my heart.

Not everyone gets it, a visitor from England was with me when I stopped to chat with a cousin; on departing cuz said, “Mind yourself.” To which I replied, “And you.” The visitor seemed concerned, “Is something wrong with You?” he asked. “No, why?” He looked back, “Why’s everyone telling you to mind yourself?” I explained it was a gentle term for goodbye; but I don’t think he got it.

I’ve long stopped saying goodbye to people who’ve passed, preferring to keep them alive in every sense. Whenever I hear a snippet of a song, see something, or catch a fragrance that reminds me of a departed loved one, I say, “Hello you,” and have a stellar chat.

I’ve finally banished the ghost of goodbye, for good. Now, I must crack on with writing my love story. Until next week, “Mind yourself.”


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