Our sadness in saying goodbye is mixed with the joy and hopefulness of our new life.

For many families, life is marked by transition. Often, when moving to a new home, saying goodbye can be painful and difficult.

My family moved from Puerto Rico to Philadelphia so I could attend seminary. Our son and daughter were born at the hospital nearby. Both were cared for and loved by many classmates and friends. Then after graduation we returned to Puerto Rico, where I served a congregation for two years.

As I write, I’m in the process of saying goodbye to the congregation I’ve served for 13 years. Apostles Lutheran Church in Turnersville, N.J., has been our faith community and our oasis of love and support. It’s where my kids were confirmed and taught the love of God in Jesus Christ.

Now my family and I are moving to a new congregation in California. We’re all excited to think of the adventures we’ll experience there. Yet we are painfully aware of what we are leaving behind: our church family, friends, colleagues, classmates, and favorite restaurants and activities.

As we say our goodbyes, we are grateful for the people we’ve met and the experiences we’ve had and how they have taught us to trust in God’s providence and guidance. Our sadness in saying goodbye is mixed with the joy and hopefulness of our new life.

My family and I learned a few things that may be helpful to other families that are moving. We’re encouraging each other to:

Visit the places that you will miss and offer a prayer of thanksgiving for the joys that you experienced in them.

Embrace sadness. Share your feelings with others. It’s OK to be excited and share your joys with others too.

Allow others to tell you how much you have blessed them as well. Acknowledge the feelings of loss and sadness of those who love you and who will miss you.

Tell everyone who is part of your life that you give thanks to God for them. Share a blessed goodbye.

Finally, be encouraged that, as Lutherans, we are resurrection people. We know that death and loss are not the last words in our lives. Christ assures us: “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you” (John 14:18). Change is part of life, and we face it together, trusting in the one who holds our future, lives and spirits in his hands—Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord.

In our sadness or joys, Christ sustains us with his grace and love. As we say our goodbyes, let us rest assured in the comfort that Jesus also has given us a blessed goodbye: “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

Nelson H. Rabell-González
Rabell-González is pastor of Latino Lutheran Mission, Stockton, Calif. He was born and raised in Puerto Rico and is a graduate of Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (2002). Rabell-González is married to Dr. Fabiola Ramos. They have two children: Hiram Rabell-Ramos (18) and Sofía Rabell-Ramos (16). Their dog's name is Lucas.

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