Semantic notions about life: an exploration of words and signs, and the stories they are trying to tell.

good·bye

good·bye

1155 SW Morrison Street, Portland, OR, USA

1155 SW Morrison Street, Portland, OR, USA

good·bye /ɡo͝odˈbī/

Noun. A farewell; an acknowledgment of parting. 

The last time you said Merry Christmas to me, I said it back, not knowing what you already knew - that in less than 24 hours, you would never say another word again. I ignored what would later be pinpointed and examined as clues. Like your guttural coughing of each syllable. Or how it was the first - and only - time I ever heard my grandfather sob.

Hindsight would also reveal what you were actually trying to say: not Merry Christmas, but a word that's often one of the first learned when studying other languages. Had you said au revoir or adios, would I still have heard only what I wanted to hear?

In some cultures, the word means both welcome and farewell. Like Aloha. Or Ciao.

Understanding the intention all depends on context.

In Hebrew, the word shalom, or peace, is also used for both hello and goodbye. A more formal parting would be shalom aleichem, or peace be with you. Its root word, shalam, reveals an even deeper meaning: to be safe in mind, body, or estate.

If you could do it all over again, I like to believe that’s what you would have said to me instead. Shalom. That what you intended was not a final, permanent parting, but rather a desire for inner completeness. Wholeness. Tranquility.

If you could do it all over again, I like to believe I could have found the right word, regardless of country of origin, that would have prevented you from doing it at all.

I search for different words now. For example, how do you say forgive in Hebrew? In Spanish? Italian? French? How do you say it in any language. How do you say it at all.

Or if there is any country where the word for meaning will yield the state that helps me understand. Come to terms with. Accept what cannot be undone.

com·pas·sion

com·pas·sion

op·tion

op·tion