I once read that the Italian saint and stigmatist Padre Pio could not cope with goodbyes.
Whenever his friends would try to take their leave of him after a visit he would grasp their hands and beg them with tears in his eyes to stay for a little bit longer.
I thought of him a few times last week, and how similar and yet different I am to Padre Pio when it comes to goodbyes. I also hate goodbyes but I deal with them by trying to pretend they are not happening.
Before Christmas the girls said goodbye to their teachers and friends, and last week we said goodbye to our parish and the house we called home for the last five years.
The two days before the move were pretty tough.
“I’m going to take a brick from every room in the house, so I’ll remember it,” Hannah told us one morning.
“You can’t do that. The people coming to live here after us won’t want holes in the walls.”
“I’ll take just one door knob then. Or maybe a door from one of the kitchen cupboards. Look, you can take it off here, see?”
Tragic was the goodbye to Whitey, the decrepit old sofa which had been given a reprieve from the large rubbish collection several months ago.
The children bawled when they unfortunately saw (due to a lack of planning on my part) a man come with a truck to take it away, along with a bunch of other ill-fated old bits and pieces their parents didn’t want coming to the new house.
“No, he’s not taking it!” they cried. Then: “He’s a horrible man. You’re so mean. Go away!”
“That’s ours. You’re a very bad man. I’m going to shoot you, peuw, peuw,” Joachim shouted enthusiastically, brandishing his finger.
Horrified, mortified, and guilt-stricken, but also half-hysterically wanting to both laugh and cry, I ran about trying to shepherd the children inside, while Peter apologised to the man.
But I didn’t think to close the blinds and they ran to press their teary faces to the windows to gaze at the top corner of Whitey that was sticking out of the top of the truck.
A fresh chorus of wails began as they saw a couple of rusting bikes with balding tires and wonky training wheels (which neighbours had given us second or third-hand and the kids had ignored for months) being tossed up alongside Whitey.
“He’s taking my pink bike,” Hannah sobbed.
She had hardly ever touched it, and I’m sure she’d forgotten about it, but she was really heartbroken.
I sensed it was a last straw for her – that she could cope with leaving school and home, and with leaving all the bricks behind and the kitchen intact, but that losing the bike was too much to take.