The goodbye party that never was

Time is running away from us in the countdown to our move to Canberra and there are already a few tasks that were on our August ‘to do’ list that have been highlighted in luminous marker pen as being overdue.

One such task was to have a goodbye party, to which we would invite all our friends here in Denmark. Alas, when it comes to sorting our jobs list into ‘must dos’ and ‘nice to dos’ our big send-off falls into the latter category and is unlikely to happen now.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post titled ‘When life gets in the way’. In it, I mentioned that a close relative had been taken seriously ill. At the time, the early diagnosis was cancer. Thankfully, that has now been revised to a variant of Guillain–Barré syndrome, which has an eminently more encouraging prognosis.

But getting to that diagnosis has taken its toll on our plans. To support our family, my wife has spent perhaps 30-40% of the past few months in the UK. As a result, some of the ‘nice to dos’ on our emigration jobs list have had to be crossed off. Like the party, which we had planned to hold in August before the Scandinavian autumn closed in.

It’s not all bad though. What this does is force us to schedule a series of more intimate goodbyes with the people who have made Denmark a true home for us. Nevertheless, it also means that there will be people we don’t get to see and goodbyes that we don’t get to say. And perhaps that’s just as it should be.

When we were planning our one-way flight to Australia, we had a lot of UK-based friends and relatives ask us if we would be flying via the UK and doing a stopover for a night, so we could say some goodbyes. I have to say that I can’t think of a worse way to break an emigration trip than to stop off, mid-trip and be faced with a series of teary, heart-wrenching goodbyes. To say nothing of what it would do to the kids, who would then have to hop back on a plane for the remaining 20-plus hours of our trip and embrace the reality of our move to Canberra and all that will be left behind.

And now that we’ve crossed it off our jobs list, I wonder whether a big farewell party was such a wise idea either. With further scrutiny, I think it may have been more about the ceremony of emigrating rather than something that we needed to do.

Our substitute approach – to see as many people as we can, individually or in small groups, feels more fitting. Our friends don’t all know each other, and lumping them all together for one big farewell would have served the ceremony of emigration but not the importance of our friendships.

This way, we’ll get to have proper conversations and say proper goodbyes instead of saying “thanks for coming” and moving swiftly on to the next set of guests to ensure everyone felt like they got due attention at our big bash.

Although our move is still more than seven weeks away, I now know that we’ve already said a few of our goodbyes. We didn’t actually call them that. We made noises about “Oh, maybe there’ll be time to catch up before we go” and “It’s not that far, we’ll be back to visit before you know it.” But in truth, the kids have said their goodbyes to three out of four grandparents and my wife and I have said goodbye to the first of our four parents as well as several friends. That list will grow and grow over the next seven weeks and, as it does, there’s less likelihood that the promise to “squeeze in one more catch-up” will hold any water.

The countdown is really ticking now and, the truth of it is, some of these goodbyes are going to be final. Or as final as we will ever admit to.

2 thoughts on “The goodbye party that never was

  1. When I left Vancouver, 5 years ago (almost to the day), I had a Mixed Emotions party, which really was a “buy the stuff I could not sell” party. I did not make a lot of money, it was a last minute say goodbye thing, but it had a purpose. I made some fact fortune cookie-type strips of paper, and everyone who came had to pick one from the basket. It had fun facts about Sweden (not Switzerland where everyone kept thinking I was moving). But it was not a lot of work and it was a good way to get rid of those last bits and pieces. Just a thought.

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  2. Thanks Amanda, that’s a great idea, although, unless things change, we may be giving a couple of cars away too — we’re way behind with our ‘selling things off’ task list. Funny you should mention the Sweden/Switzerland thing. To this day, we have friends who are convinced we moved to Holland: “Are there lots of windmills?” Well, yes, but only to generate green energy. “Huh?”

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