The Shoulda Coulda Wouldas of a Good-bye

Written by on November 8, 2016

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35 NIV).

 When you go through transition, is your self-talk riddled with regret?

Wednesday I put my 26-year-old son, Andy, on a plane bound for Tokyo. Japanese is his total passion. Over the course of the last 10 years, he has successfully immersed himself in the language and culture. He ate, slept, and dreamed in Japanese.

Andy’s linguistic prowess outstrips his peers. He recently interpreted for a week-long event when Japanese Local Government Managers came to Portland State University to study Portland municipal departments. He interpreted for Community-Based Learning and even provided subtitles for a Japanese video on earthquake preparedness. I’m so proud of Andy!

But the night before he left, I created a Great Lake of my own with the tears that flowed. Self-chiding thoughts chattered away in my head.

“Andy loves Japanese, but I don’t speak a word. I haven’t done much to enter my introvert son’s world. I must be selfish! Andy is about to be on his way to the other side of the world. I don’t know when I’ll see him again.”

When I spoke with Jesus, a big pile of “shoulda coulda wouldas” cascaded, tumbling one over another. I shoulda spent more time with Andy. I coulda drawn him out to learn more about his world of Japanese. I woulda taken more pictures of him if I knew I’d miss him this much.

But, sometime in the middle of the night before his flight, I shifted from pouring out my soul to actually listening to Jesus’ response.

He whispered, “How did you show your son love?”

“I’ve prayed for him and lifted up his identity and his future to You for years. I often told him I’m proud of him. I expressed interest in him and his friends, gave him rides and cooked for him. I filled our home with the presence of God in worship music.”

As I wrote out the ways I loved on Andy in my own way, I felt the warmth of Jesus’ smile and his implicit approval.

Could I have spoken Andy’s language of love a little better? Maybe.


But when we are saying good-bye to someone, whether it’s finishing out a job, ending a relationship, experiencing the loss of a loved one, or putting a family member on a plane, God wants us to celebrate what we did have instead of focusing on what we missed. To our “I didn’t love him enough” God replies, “Yes, but you loved him in the way you knew how. And that’s good enough for Me.”

No matter how big or small your good-bye, Jesus puts His arm around your shoulder and says, “We’re transitioning together. I give you permission to grieve your losses. But leave regrets out of this. Enjoy the journey. We’re in this thing together.”

 Friend, how do you frame self-talk in tough good-byes?

Get "10 Tips for a Smart Transition."

Enter your first name and email address and get your FREE ebook "10 Tips for a Smart Transition."

Learn how to make decisions you won't regret. Overcome the anxiety of tough decisions with a clear head, peaceful heart, and confidence.

Sign up here!

Your information is 100% safe with us. Powered by ConvertKit

Tagged as , , , , , , , ,

  1. Katherine   On   November 9, 2016 at 5:48 am

    I am so very glad that you love your son so very much that you support his following his dream–even though it takes him miles and hours away from you.

  2. Bonnie Keller   On   November 9, 2016 at 8:06 am

    Lynn, this made me cry. How proud you must be of Andy.
    He will be far away, but not in Spirit. So hard, but focus on all beautiful positive ways that you influence his life, and still do!
    We all have to say goodbye even if it is just a while on this earth.
    With having to say goodbye, I like to focus on the love that I have for that person and how he or she has affected my life in a good way.
    When my father passed, ( On my birthday) I just seemed to see all the good in him, more then the negative. He loved us the only way he knew how.
    Prayers for you and Andy! He has found his way, he has found his passion!! How Great!! God is Good! Blessings to you and your family Lynn!!

    • Lynn Hare   On   November 9, 2016 at 5:12 pm

      Hi Bonnie, how have you done it with your awesome sons? You were able to let go and let God in a great way. I love what you said about focusing on the love you have for the person and how they affected your life. I am glad you found celebration in the good in your dad! God blesses that! You are right, he loved you the way he knew how. Warm blessings to you, my friend!

  3. Kathy Weldon   On   November 9, 2016 at 1:38 pm

    Hi Lynn, Wow, I was so blessed to read your post! You truly are a gifted writer and so much feeling and depth come through your words. The message was so warming to my mother heart because I always feel the woulda, coulda, shoulda’s too. However, The Lord is so good though and multiplies what we have deposited in our children as we look at how they have grown and blossomed. Your son Andy is so blessed to have your mother heart and prayers and what a blessing he must be to you:) May the Lord bless him greatly in his journeys!

    • Lynn Hare   On   November 9, 2016 at 5:09 pm

      Thank you, Kathy. I wish we could dodge the regrets. I used to think the Lord called me “Regret Shredder,” but He no longer calls me that. Why? Because He doesn’t want us to regret in the first place, just to be grateful for all the stuff He gives us. I pray that your relationship with your kids increases 100fold, girl!

  4. Lynn   On   November 9, 2016 at 2:37 pm

    Dear Pool at the Base of the Waterfall,

    Thank you for being so transparent (in looking at the word, I note “parent” is coming right after “trans”). It seems as if there is always something better I could have done for my children. Thank God for the times we spent in prayer and on our knees. We can only give what we know to give at the time. We only “know in part” here on earth.

    Our loving God isn’t asking for great genius…obedience, yes. Feebly, we obey within our own frailties.

    A new word I am trying to use is “detritus.” Some of our actions appear to be detritus…waste matter in the worm pile. However, think of what happens when the worms get into the compost bin. Aerated and fertile soil that will stimulate luxuriant growth. Our miracle-working and life -sustaining God takes our detritus and transforms it.

    Thank you for explaining your ruminations…many seeds planted!

    • Lynn Hare   On   November 9, 2016 at 5:06 pm

      Hi Lynn, I love “trans” + “parent!” You’re right. Now we only know (and prophesy) in part. Yes, sometimes I think God is looking for more genius than obedience. And you are right, some of the best growth happens in a compost heap. Some of my words and attitudes belong there! Lord, water my seeds. Thanks!

  5. Maggie   On   November 9, 2016 at 4:46 pm

    Lynn, It had to be so hard to say good-bye to your son that day not knowing when you would see him again. I could feel your sadness as you wrote this. I can also feel your love and how proud you must be of him as he is fulfilling his dream. I am very excited for him as he ventures off into fulfilling his dreams. Blessings to Andy and to you and your family. 🙂

    • Lynn Hare   On   November 9, 2016 at 5:03 pm

      Maggie, yes, it has been a hard time saying good-bye! I’m very proud of him and support his dream. Exciting. Adventurous. Sad. Such a mixture of emotions!

    • Lynn Hare   On   November 10, 2016 at 8:45 pm

      Thanks, Bethany. Kind of reminds me of the joy of people calling memorial services “celebrations of life.” Gratitude wins the day.

  6. LadyJane West   On   November 10, 2016 at 7:34 pm

    Beautifully written, Lynn. Thanks for opening your heart to share what all of us mothers go through. What a blessing your son is!

    • Lynn Hare   On   November 10, 2016 at 8:44 pm

      Hi Jane. Thank you! Yes, Andy is quite the blessing. I got a long text from my friend Cheryl, reminding me of many activities I did with my kids when they were little. Hopefully all that joy is still in there!

  7. Kathy Sheldon Davis   On   November 13, 2016 at 4:38 pm

    It was physically jarring when our first child got on a plane to go another part of the world, something like childbirth. It wasn’t fear or unbelief, just difficult. No one promised motherhood would be easy, or get easier as they grew, right? Only Jesus’ yoke is easy and his burden light. Blessings to you and your family, Lynn!

  8. Gail G   On   November 15, 2016 at 11:07 am

    Dear Loving, Joyful, Thoughtful, Insightful Friend! I’ll take these precious words of perspective and wisdom in light of our recent Radiant good-bye–that fortunately doesn’t have to be a real good-bye since neither of us is going to the other side of the world! But our connection opportunities will shift a bit. Love you!

    • Lynn Hare   On   November 15, 2016 at 1:53 pm

      Hi Gail, thank you for the kindnesses of a thousand years celebrating the Son! One of my shoulda coulda wouldas as we said good-bye to Radiant is omitting naming you and your hard work as an elder and especially thanking you for the meals and love and support following our car accident. Please forgive me for not acknowledging you and your investment in us as friends and sisters. You rock! You are and always will be family to us.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please visit Appearance->Widgets to add your widgets here