Since I was old enough to peer out the car window, I can remember my grandmother standing by her curtains as we pulled away in our car, waving good-bye, her fingers fluttering gleefully. Every time, as we piled back into the car, I would immediately buckle my seatbelt and hurriedly crane my neck to see my grandmother at the window, oddly frantic that I would miss her gesture. To me, it is more than just a sway of a hand; it is one last sign of reaching out to the person leaving. Waving is considered to be such a little thing, and perhaps we take it for granted, but it does not mean that it lacks importance. It seems wrong to me, in a way, to abruptly leave someone without proper farewell. Sayings such as “good-bye” or “see you later” will work, but sometimes spoken words cannot demonstrate the same feelings as a wave.
My friend left for a trip over summer and when I saw her off, I could see her face pressed against the glass of the car, saying something inaudible; however, the ecstatic waving of her hands was enough to express what she felt.
The wave of farewell at funerals is slow and soft, like the melancholy music played for the ceremony. At my grandfather’s funeral, these delicate and unsure swishes of the hand directed towards the twelve-year old me showed the uncertainty of what to say to a child who has lost someone dear, or maybe simply the sadness that sat heavy on everyone’s shoulders.
When I was volunteering at a children’s camp, I recall a young mother peering anxiously over the many heads of the children shoving each other. She caught a glimpse of her daughter and waved to the small, retreating blonde, her nervous hands extending out, as if to grab her child back. The little girl looked equally apprehensive as the crowd surged ahead, but when her friends surrounded her, laughing and giggling, she looked up with a more confident expression and returned her mother’s wave with a quick and happy swipe, a swipe that wiped the worry from her mother’s face and replaced it with relief.
Maybe I’m being too sentimental or too tenderhearted, but I honestly don’t mind because something in that movement of the fingers gives me comfort. I realize that this person took a moment to look back and motion one last thing. Life has a cruel habit of being unexpected and sudden, no matter how much you think you can prepare. My favorite memory of my other grandmother was when I was seven and I spent the day with her and my grandfather. I had a wonderful time. When leaving and getting into the car, I had an urge to stop and turn back to wave at my grandmother, who was watching me from the porch. She smiled at me and waved back. The next week she was killed in a car accident. You see, the last thing I said to my grandmother was not something really said at all. It was just a wave, but that moment between us, when nothing was said and it was just a little girl in pigtails waving good-bye to an elderly woman in a knit sweater; that is the moment where I could see how much I loved her and how much she loved me. This is why, above everything else, I believe in the importance of waving good-bye.