“Dream as if you’ll live forever……live as if you’ll die today.” ~James Dean
Saying “Goodbye” is important. Much more than most of us will allow.
In the skydiving world, we say goodbye to each other every single time we jump. Because it could very well be the last jump we ever make. It’s not a somber occasion, or even stressful. No, the goodbyes are said energetically, with beaming smiles and eye contact that says “I love you, brother/sister, and if I don’t see you again, remember me in this moment.” It’s about embracing life and living it fully and in the moment. But unfortunately, this jumper’s farewell with a very good friend of mine a week before moving to Okinawa in 2013 was our last. I am so very thankful that we got to say goodbye to each other. And, in this case, in our own very unique way. Read about it in Blue Skies, Black Death.
That story, which recalls my permanent goodbye with Jimmy, instantly makes me happy and warm whenever I think about him, and I do often. That’s one reason why I take saying goodbye so seriously. The word “goodbye” used to convey a much more serious sense of finality than it does today in the electronic age of connectedness. Originally, it was said as a contraction of “God be with ye,” which conveys a blessing of safe travels and life. “Farewell” comes from the antiquated “fare thee well,” yet another blessing we find today in “be well”. But these send-offs also can also almost be a plea. And to those of you that bid me and Jody adieu at our costumed “Sayonara” party, I salute you for coming out to say a fun-filled cheerio. If you don’t see me again, I plead with you to remember me in that moment!
But now it is time for me to say goodbye to Okinawa. I may not be back, after living here three different times and for over seven years total. I’m filled with anticipation and I’m excited: after living on Okinawa the last 3.5 years, Jody and I are moving, and moving to an area new to both of us (Camp Lejeune). Don’t me wrong: we don’t want to go, and we don’t want to go there. But we have to. Yes, it’s not what we wanted or expected, but it will allow me a wonderful new opportunity to continue pursuing my passion as a professional scuba diver, this time among the wrecks scattered off the coast of North Carolina. But the fact remains I have to say goodbye to some people who and places which have come to mean a great deal to me. Which always makes my heart hurt….
The military-industrial complex is not known for their stable, static jobs. Active duty people continually transfer in and out through the proverbial revolving door. Contractors come and go with contracts and sequestration, and even Government Service (GS) employees often relocate with either of these categories of people. But even so, when the stable instability that is life associated with the military becomes even more unbalanced, what does it all mean? The roles that people play are in reality easily replaced, but seldom is the person. Once you know someone, it’s hard to unknow them—you might grow apart, your relationship might change, but if you know someone, have chosen to know someone, you will always know that person’s character. It’s critical to us all, whatever our social constructs, that goodbyes resulting in significant change be acknowledged. So we say goodbye, sometimes formally, often times as an expression of intimacy. Goodbyes, especially among an affectionate cohort, can weigh heavily. While you may officially say goodbye to such a someone once (or twice), you’ll continue to say goodbye, emotionally and mentally. It’s a continual process.
So, at great risk of leaving important people off this list (and please take no offense), I say these goodbyes, in no particular order. Ken Redifer, you’ve been a fantastic PADI Course Director and mentor to me along the way. You have challenged me to be better at every turn, and trusted me with your students at every level. I can’t think you enough for shepherding me along the way. To Jessica Mills, my “Scuba Wife,” I value every moment together, even though as your surrogate Big Brother I probably annoyed you to no end. You will do fine at the IE and will quickly mature into a kick-ass instructor! Matt Lewis, you have been one of my closest allies here on Okinawa, and I’m ecstatic to leave both my Adopted Dive Site and the USS Emmons Diver Specialty in your capable hands. I will not forget those final dives on that serene shipwreck with you. Darlene Fong, my “Scuba Momma,” thank you for the tec training and 130fsw+ companionship along the way. I will miss our trips out to the USS Emmons together! Ben Favorite, a fellow retired flier and brother-in-arms, you have been a wonderful friend and solid dive buddy. Here’s looking to Truk again in 2019. Do me a favor and please do work too hard! Rob and Wendy, thanks for introducing us to Ishigaki and the manta-scramble. And Rob, my IDC cohort from back-in-the-day, you still owe me lunch! For our dive industry professionals, including Mark of the Crystal Blue and Tony of Torii Scuba Locker, thanks for your assistance and pirate adventures on the high seas. To my fellow instructors (including candidates sitting for their IE this coming weekend) and Certified Assistants with whom I have worked or taught – including Jeff R., Dale F., Kim N., Scott H., Gary J., Chris W., Mike H., Matt M., Jose R., Jayce G., Jimmy P., Brian P., Kurt R., Chuck D., Roger, Noorin, Louis, Troy, Sarah, Patricia S., Kim H., Rebecca R., Ben S., Barbara S., Cory J., Ty, Asako and Bruce, thank you for all the laughs and good times in and around the pools, seas and oceans of Okinawa. And to the Divemasters who elected to train under me still located here (Ben, Jessica, Jacoby, Lewis, Gerardo, Peter and Cory), thank you for your trust in confidence in making your move to the pro side. Mindy, I couldn’t let your broken foot go without a mention; thanks for all your help with my branding and website. Ms. Ana, of course, one of my all-time favorite divers and former students, thank you for trusting me to safely introduce you to the amazing underwater world. Your smile and passion about diving whenever I see you brightens my heart and lightens my day! And, a special call-out to two individuals who need to become PADI Instructors: Rich Kearney and Gerardo DeLucia. You both have exactly what it takes, and I see you as perfect fits in our tribe. Don’t put it off; I waited about 30 years too long….
Goodbye, to each and every one of you.
I no longer struggle with goodbyes. Saying a heartfelt goodbye forces us to recognize a change in our path, an acknowledgment that we’re choosing (or sometimes being forced) to change the vector of our lives. The very reason goodbyes are hard for so many people is the very reason we actually need to do them, and do them well: because they matter.
Imbibing goodbyes is as much a part of the human experience as breathing. Let them serve as goodness in your life, helping you to leave better, whole, and more loving. All goodbyes contain a blessing. Use them to make each goodbye count – even if you are just ducking out to the corner store. Each fleeting goodbye can turn out to be a goodbye forever.
Blue Skies & Happy Bubbles, Kevin, Okinawa 2017