If This is Goodbye

By Mickey Dunaway | Reprinted with Permission by Currents Magazine | Cornelius, NC

In the phases of our lives, we are dependent, growing and learning to be independent, putting down roots and legacies, and hopefully growing into giant Sequoias in the lives of our families.  This month I am pulled toward the idea that September, not January, is a superior month to do some serious reflecting on those growth cycles.   

It is harvest time—a time to consider what is genuinely important to us as we move forward—whatever or however long that future may be.  There will be more changes in our directions.  We can almost touch what is to be but is not yet known, and our futures will be glimpsed through a mirror darkly.

***

Each month I sit down on the first Sunday with incomplete metaphors and blurred memories that have been rumbling around in my head since the last month’s column.  The first thing I try to do is to slow everything down in my head so that I can work them into an expressive and significant theme for the upcoming month’s column.

For this September 2022 Moment in Time, one idea has reverberated and remained with me as I have often thought about what would emerge as Sunday, August 7 approached. 

My ideas this month have been determinedly focused on September 11, 2001.  As important is how we can give it the personal meaning it deserves.  It will concentrate single-mindedly on nudging us all to reflect personally on that quiet day in September when the lives of 2977 Americans were taken from us.

It is a suitable way—I think—to begin thoughts of 9-11 by mentally placing yourself geographically where you were when you first heard the news that has changed our nation evermore.  Dwell for a moment on the people around you when you heard about it.  What were your reactions—immediately and over time?  Momentarily focus on your thoughts and reactions that day on the people in the twin towers of the World Trade Center.  Finally, think about loved ones who talked to their loved ones as they waited for certain death—husbands, and wives who had seen their lovers off to another day’s work on that typical September day.  

Much has been written about the War on Terror that began that day and continues unabated 21 years later.  I hope to focus your reflections on those who died and whose families’ lives were forever altered by that moment in time. 

Some of you all may have direct connections to those 2977 souls who left us that day.  If so, please talk to a neighbor about what that has meant to you.  I expect it will be good for you to talk about how it has affected you and your neighbor, who also hears your story.

I have no connections to the souls lost on that day.  Still, I repeatedly play a song written by famous English singer and songwriter Mark Knopfler each September.  He brings the emotions of the souls lost in the twin towers directly to my psyche.  Knopfler released a song in 2006 titled If This is Goodbye — a duet with American country singer Emmylou Harris. 

The song is much like a “call and response” musical conversation between a husband who knows he is going to die and his wife who is safely at home. 

All the lyrics are touching, but two verses—one to lead off the song and one in the middle always bring me to the verge of tears and one toward the center.

The tragedy of that “everyday kind of day” is expressed in the first verse:

My famous last words

Are laying around in tatters

Sounding absurd

Whatever I try

But I love you

And that’s all what really matters

If this is goodbye

If this is goodbye

If This is Goodbye

Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris

by Mercury Records and Universal Music, 2006

The middle verse expresses the finality of that day that both people accept and yet use their love to positively live their last few moments together:

Who knows how long we’ve got

Or what we’re made of

Who knows if there’s plan or not

There is our love

I know there is our love

If This is Goodbye

Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris

by Mercury Records and Universal Music, 2006

You can find the lyrics at https://genius.com/Mark-knopfler-and-emmylou-harris-if-this-is-goodbye-lyricsand listen to the song on Pandora or Spotify.  I urge you to do both!

***

I hope you will take time this September and reflect on how much the people you love, the people you see regularly, and those you haven’t seen in years mean to you.  More importantly, let them know.

I encourage you to go one step further—write down some of those stories of your life that still bring joy when you think of them.  Leave a trail of your life for your descendants to follow.  Then share them with family and friends.  

***

I know that every life lost on September 11, 2001, mattered.  Every memory they never shared counted.  Every story of growing up mattered.  Just the same, your personal Moments in Time matter—maybe not now—but one day, you will be proud that you wrote down your stories for your children and their children and their children—and for yourself.

***

Words from an old schoolteacher about writing:  No writer ever learned to write in an English class.  They learned as they wrote the things they knew that had to be said.  

– Mickey Dunaway

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