The Hardest Good-byes

What is the hardest good-bye you’ve ever had to do?

There are many good-byes that have been very hard for me, for their own different reasons, one not really “hardest”, because they were all terribly hard. The loss of our babies is indescribable…

The one that I originally chose for this prompt was the death of my Granny Gunter on 25 March 2010.  She was the last of my grandparents to die and the only one whose funeral I was not there for.  I wanted to be there.  I wanted to something awful.  I wanted to be there to tell her good-bye.  I wanted to be there to give her the hugs that I hadn’t been able to give to her for the last 13 years of her life because of a lying little wench that caused us to have to move a thousand miles away to protect ourselves from danger (or so we thought…the danger came with us).  Anyway, I never wanted any of my grandparents to die, of course, but when they did, I wanted to be there for them.  I wanted them to know that I loved them with every ounce of me.

When my Papa Gunter died way back in April 1980, I wasn’t with him when he died, but I was able to go to the funeral.  I was with my family.  It was the spring of my 9th grade year. He was the first to go.  I had always had four grandparents.  How does one now live with only three?



When my Grandpa Spence died, I was in the room with him. It was awful. It was the first time I had witnessed someone die and I hope it will be the last…though I know it won’t be. It was the scariest, most torturous thing that I had ever witnessed. Grandpa was consumed with cancer and was drowning in his bed as his lungs filled up with the fluids that the hospice workers were trying to drain from him. It took him, moaning, groaning, gurgling, struggling, right there in front of me. In that moment of sheer grief and fear, I heard the sweetest little voice saying “Bye-bye, Papa”. It was the voice of my one year old daughter whom I held in my arms, waving as he left this world into his eternal home.


William and Maggie Spence

The death of my Grandma Spence has left me wracked with guilt. I should have been there for her. I was supposed to be with her. It was a Sunday morning and that was when I was supposed to be visiting her.  I stayed up all night the night before doing laundry and yapping with the neighbor lady and was too tired to drive the forty-five miles back home to go see Grandma. Too tired. For my own grandma, stuck sitting in that blasted nursing home all alone.  Cast away like she was a burden.  I didn’t want her there, but had no say in the matter.  Of all the things that I dislike about myself, I would have to say this is the thing that I hate myself the most for. I deserted her via a lack of priorities.  I should have been there…she died alone because I wasn’t there.  I know that she loved me, but I feel like I failed to show that love to her because I should have been there and wasn’t.


4 Generations: Jared, Daddy, Granny, Me, and little Laynie.

And Granny… I should have been there for her, too.  I should have at least been able to be at the funeral even if I wasn’t with her when she passed away.  I should have been able to give her a last good-bye.  I should have been able to take my turn sitting with her those last few weeks of her life as my sister and my cousins did.  But, I was stuck out here a thousand miles away and no way to get back home to be with my family at such a crucial time.  I let everybody down.  I wrote a letter that the family read to Granny.  My oldest cousin told me that Granny smiled and loved me, too. She was happy to get my letter.  They said that it helped her to let go of this world, like she was waiting to hear from me.  I can’t explain how that makes me feel…so many emotions wrapped around my grandparents, every one of them.


Me with David’s Daddy, 1984

The loss of my father-in-law was a devastating loss for our family. I loved him dearly. We didn’t realize how sick he was and all of a sudden he was gone, this man that I’d grown to love as a father.  I already had a daddy and when I got married, I was blessed to have two and then so quickly he was gone from our lives.  He has been gone twenty-nine years now. Sometimes it seems like a hundred years ago and sometimes like just yesterday. The grief is still as strong as when it happened. There is a big gaping hole in my life where he should still be.  I will always miss him.




Me with Daddy, 1984

Then, there’s Daddy.  He died 9 December 2012, over a year after I originally wrote this post. As much as I loved all of the others, Daddy’s death has affected me the most.  I knew that he was sick, but I couldn’t get back home. We didn’t have the money for me to go and, even if we did, my place was here with my husband, who was also in the hospital on death’s door.  Daddy dying was hardest on so many levels.  I didn’t call him on his birthday.  I talked to him on December 2, but not on “the” day, December 3.  He didn’t particularly like for people to mention his birthday to him.  The one time that I honored his wishes and didn’t tell him Happy Birthday on “the day” turned out to be his last. No more debating whether to call him and tell him or not, no more chances to hear, “Papa loves yins”, no whiskers tickling my ear as I hug him good-bye or anything.  I didn’t get that last good-bye.  He was buried without me, as my heart was shredded in two, a thousand miles away in a nursing home in which neither David nor I wanted to be.

Davey. On 1 June 2014, our youngest son, my miracle baby, left for the United States Marine Corps.  I did not want him to go.  Yes, I am totally proud to be the mama of a US Marine. OORAH!!!  But, I am a mama first and did not want to see him go. It ripped my heart out to see him get into that big, green van. As it pulled away from our drive and went around the circle, my heart was scrambling, trying to get one last glimpse of him, not knowing where it should land, but knowing where it did land…in a pile of tears on a concrete driveway as broken as my heart.   My hair grayed more in that one day than it has in all of the other days of my life combined.


Our Marine


Those were the hardest good-byes.


This post was originally written in 2 July 2011 on my other blog, PS Annie!  I made several updates before posting here to reflect the passing of five more years.

The original prompt came from the NaBloPoMo website.

This post is here today as part of The Not-So-Wordless Wednesday, hosted by Cathy over at Curious as a Cathy.


About Suzanne Gunter McClendon

I am a South Carolina native, but have been living on the Texas Gulf Coast for 14 years now. David and I have been married for 34 years. Our children are grown. Some are here at home, others are out in the big world doing their "thing". I enjoy genealogy, reading, writing, photography, digital art, fiber arts, cooking and much, much more.
This entry was posted in Family, Family Photographs, Memoir, Not-So-Wordless Wednesday, Writing Challenges. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to The Hardest Good-byes

  1. Just Simply Linda says:

    {{{Suzanne}}} sending you lots of hugs and love.

    I don’t know the back story why you had to move…and don’t feel like you have to tell me, I just wanted to offer a personal opinion—and just a personal thought, as I tell my son, one can never truly run away from their problems. It always, always catches up to you. It could be in a day or years…but that problem never goes away until one handles it. The same goes with lies, if you don’t lie than you won’t have a problem with keeping up with the truth. smiles

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Linda. {{{Hugs}}} Our lives were threatened and we moved here for safety reasons. It turns out the real threat moved with us. It was someone that used to lived with us. But, it is a very long, upsetting story that I try to not think about, though sometimes I do because of what it cost our family. I’m signing off for a little while. I’ll be back later today Have a beautiful day. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t do those kind of good-byes very well. I don’t even do the kind when someone has been here visiting for the weekend and leave on Sunday. I adored my grandparents and there’s not a day that goes by I don’t think of them. Even after all these years. I should probably try a post like this but I don’t know if I could get through it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is very difficult to write a post like this. All the feelings come rushing back, the sadness, the anger, the hurt, the inconsolable grief. I cry all over again any time I try to write about it, especially about my Grandma Spence and, now, my daddy. I can’t talk about either of them without crying. It has been 23 years since my grandma died and just over 3 for my daddy. I guess some hurts just last forever and don’t fade. Maybe writing about them somehow helps us ultimately to process the grief and it will show our downline just how much these special people meant to us, and maybe help them to process their own grief some day.
      I’ve never been good with good-byes either. My granny always seemed to want us to stay lots longer and I always felt so guilty about leaving her house. It was like it made her sad that we had to go home. I didn’t want to make any of them sad.
      Thank you for sharing this with me. Though it would be emotionally very hard to do, you really should consider writing the stories of your grandparents (and parents0 in your life and whatever you know about their lives before you for the folks that will come along after you. They will be so blessed by your memories. Have a wonderful day!


  3. Suzanne, good-byes are hard and yours brought tears to my eyes. I have not witnessed someone dying and I’m not sure that I ever want to, but I reckon it will happen at one point in my life. It would break my heart to see my son leave to service our country. God bless you brave, boy! Now, on a happier note, I love the photo of your son. Great job! And, the cheerful yellow flower is like a ray of sunshine. Thank you for sharing and linking today.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Cathy. When I found that post in my PS Annie! archives, it was all I could do to read through it so that I could update it. It all still makes me cry. Sometimes I feel like a big baby. Thank you for the blessings on our Davey. He leaves out on a ship on my birthday in a couple of weeks. Please pray for his safety.

      Thank you! I love rose and that particular image is one of my favorites. I wish the drought hadn’t killed my roses.

      Thank you for having a linkup for me to link to. 🙂 Have a blessed day!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Dawn says:

    That’s a lot of goodbyes. A lot to get through. A lot of pain. But I’ve always found that writing it down moves a little of the pain from my heart to the paper. Though I do usually cry when I reread a post of mine like this, as I’m sure you do as well.

    My mom and dad died within 5 mos of each other, the same year my father-in-law and aunt died. And my best friend. It was a very bad year. Before that and since then there have been other goodbyes. I’m not good at them. But they are inevitable.

    Don’t beat yourself up over not being where you think you should have been. You do the best you can in any situation. Your grandparents knew you loved them. And in fact you HAVE said goodbye, just be writing this post.

    Huge hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Dawn. This is such a sweet comment. I appreciate it very much. I am so sorry that you had so many losses in such a short time…that you had the losses at all, really. {{{Hugs}}} I’ve never been good at good-byes either. Thank you for the encouragement. I hope that they are able to see my blog from Heaven and know how very much I still miss them. I know you must miss your folks very much, too.

      Have a wonderful weekend. 🙂


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