The Necessary Sadness of Letting Go

I am a teacher. Not the traditional kind. The kind that works outdoors, and takes little minds and allows them to run and play and connect and feel. We hold snakes and play in the mud; we fall in creeks in search of salamanders. This is where I have been led. This is where I feel home.

This week was hard. I found out one of my best little buddies is moving to Mexico. His mother approached me while he was playing. She said, “I wanted to let you know that we are moving. I wanted to tell you sooner but I just couldn’t. We already miss you.”

I knew this was coming. Hadn’t she told me that her husband gets transferred pretty much every five years? They had even visited Mexico in preparation. I knew it was coming. I just didn’t think it would be so soon.

I tried to act fine. Pretty much I was just trying not to cry. “OK. When?”

“June 2nd.” My heart broke. I said it over and over in my head. June 2nd. June 2nd. Just a little over a month away. Only one month more with my little friend and his kind mother. These people that have spent over a year coming to almost every program I have offered. They have patiently taught me Japanese and laughed with me when I couldn’t make my mouth form the right words. They have given me chocolates on Valentines Day and cards full of love on Christmas, written in perfectly messy four-year-old scrawl and read to me to make sure that I understand. They have given me so much, and now I have to let them go.

I just finished reading If You Find This Letter by Hannah Brencher. There are so many things that have felt too right as I read her words. Just almost too perfect for my life. Like so perfect that I considered checking my house for bugs. The microphone kind, not the crawly kind.

That day that I came home and read her book, and she gave me some words that felt too perfect. Like a prophecy she had written for me. They went straight through my thick skin right into my heart. We don’t get to keep people. We can cry and claw and beg but it doesn’t change anything. I can say that these people come into our lives and leave for a reason, but it doesn’t make their going any easier.

If he has to go then my only hope is that my buddy has learned something from me. I hope he doesn’t miss me. I don’t want him to be sad. If he remembers me that would make my heart happy, but he doesn’t have to. The only thing I want for him is that he continues growing. I pray that his mother keeps doing what she is doing. Because she is a great mom, and he is a great kid. I pray that every person in a costume, every dog, and large group of unknown people stay far away from my little friend, until the day comes that these things no longer make him feel afraid. Until that day comes I hope that someone is there holding his hand until the fear passes. I pray that he is safe, well, protected, and fiercely loved.

My life is pretty much one big reference to Muppet movies. Muppets Take Manhatten is a classic. There is a song from this movie that has been running through my head since I found out about this move that my friends are about to make. It is a perfect song, all of it, but I’ll just share a piece. It is so true of goodbyes. The Muppets just know how to hit you right in the feels.

Somehow I know, we’ll meet again,

Not sure quite where, and I don’t know just when.

You’re in my heart, so until then,

It’s time for saying goodbye.


This is my first real goodbye during my time at my nature center. Other little friends have grown and moved on but I still know they are around, and they get to come visit sometimes. Sometimes I wonder how classroom teachers are able to let go every year. And how their hearts stay whole after so many goodbyes. Humans live through so many goodbyes.  We break, and sometimes our goodbyes are so sudden and permanent that it feels like we will never be able to gather all the pieces back up. But eventually nostalgia lessens and allows our tiny messed up broken self to slowly come back together. It’s astonishing to me.

Mexico is far. And four is a tedious age. It is the age of learning, but also of forgetting to make room for the new. I hope some of the things I have taught him stick, but if he should forget then I hope the new is kind to him. I hope that the new gives him purpose and meaning and builds him into the wonderful person that I know he is meant to be.

We don’t get to keep people. But if I am the luckiest person, I will get to see him again. I dream of him telling me of all the fantastic things he has done and the person he has grown to be. Or maybe I will just hear about him when he undoubtedly does something so marvelous that all the people can’t help but notice him. I hope he knows how great he is and how much I will miss him.

You’re in my heart, so until then, it’s time for saying goodbye.


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