The Goodbye List and Dr. Jude -- Special farewell eases move for military child
January 15, 2013
My son is sitting at the kitchen table working on our moving calendar. We will be PCSing from Fort Belvoir, Va., to Redstone Arsenal, Ala. He draws two rows of seven blocks and writes the dates in. As he is writing he says, "Mama, I am 5 and we will be moving again and I will have lived four places. I am only 5 and that's a lot of moves." Yes, I say to myself, it is a lot of moves.
John Jr., then says, "There. I am done making the move to Alabama calendar. Now I have to make my goodbye list."
I wipe my hands on a dishtowel and walk over to the table. John Jr., explains to me that he is writing down the names of people he loves at Fort Belvoir and he is going to say goodbye to. Then when he sees the person he hugs them, they sign the list and he will take a picture of them for his Fort Belvoir memory book.
He gets a clean sheet of paper and then tells me I can't look at his goodbye list until he is finished. I go back to the kitchen. I hear him sounding out names and see him erasing and then writing again.
As I put supper in the oven, I hear him proudly proclaim, "Mama, I am finished...you can come and see my goodbye list." I walk over and he shows me the list and I smile. I see many names I expect: his "best friend forever and ever" Chance Heck, his friends at school and church, his Fort Belvoir AWANA teacher, Ms. Rosie, the school and post librarian, and then a name I didn't expect to see -- Dr. Bonita Jude, his pediatrician.
I ask about her name and John Jr., tells me in that matter-of-fact way of 5-year-olds, "Dr. Jude loves me. I love her and when I get sick, she gets me better, even when I throwed up really, really bad. Do you remember that time, Mama? Dr. Jude makes me take shots sometimes I don't like, but I still really love her. When you love someone and you are going away, you have to tell them 'goodbye.'"
John Jr., then puts his list next to the calendar and asks me to help mark the days he will begin to say goodbye. Each day he writes a person's name. Then we have one name left -- Dr. Jude.
John Jr., looks at me and asks, "When can I tell Dr. Jude goodbye?" I explain that Dr. Jude is very busy with sick children and since he is healthy, we may not be able to see her. John Jr., then tells me matter-of-factly, to write her a note and let her know he is going away and wants to tell her goodbye and, "then she will see me."
The days go by and we begin to mark off our list and take pictures and get lots of hugs. John Jr., takes the goodbye list everywhere and it has become rather ragged. Each morning he makes sure to put it in his backpack, and then after school he unfolds and studies it. We have one week left, he comes home from school and as he is working on his homework, says to me, "So Mom, I still need to see Dr. Jude for my goodbye list." I again explain that I don't think we will be able to see her but maybe we can write her a note with our new address. John Jr., tells me, "Mama, she wants to see me. We have to say goodbye."
The next day while getting a prescription filled, I leave a note at the pediatric clinic explaining that we are moving and could Dr. Jude just maybe make a one minute call to tell John Jr., goodbye.
That afternoon as we are working on homework, the phone rings and it is Dr. Jude. She wants to see John Jr., and ask if I will bring him up to see her on her supper break. I explain that she can just tell him goodbye on the phone so she won't have to give up her supper break, but she replies that she wants to see him and "after all I have to say goodbye."
I tell John Jr., this and he smiles and says, "See Mom, I told you that Dr. Jude would want to see me...you have to tell people you love and give them a hug and then say goodbye."
So we head up to the clinic and wait to see Dr. Jude on her supper break. Dr. Jude then walks in the room.
John Jr.s' face lights up as does Dr. Jude's and they are in there own world. Dr. Jude asking questions and John Jr. replying excitedly about Alabama and the rocket ships. Tears begin to fill my eyes. I have to bite my lip to stop the tears from falling.
I hear John Jr. telling Dr. Jude about the goodbye list and he knew that she would want to see him and hug him and say goodbye. He tells her that I said she would be too busy with sick kids but that he "knew that you love me and would miss me if I didn't tell you where I was going." She agrees and thanks him for meeting with her. They continue to chatter about any and everything.
I then begin to wonder if this one goodbye would even matter five or 10 years from now.
As memories of Fort Belvoir fade and new ones are created, would this one goodbye to Dr. Jude matter? Goodbyes are hard, but ask any Army spouse, they are much harder when you have a child. Your heart aches for them.
The Army has so many programs to help families and children with PCS moves, but sometimes I learned it is the people, like Dr. Jude, who make the biggest difference -- the people who are committed to serving the military families and especially the children.
In that instant, I realized it, that five or 10 years from now wasn't important -- it was the here and now. Dr. Jude knew that. Here was a 5-year-old military child who was moving again. It was going to be hard -- new friends, new school, new home, new stores and even a new pediatrician. She could not change any of that, but she could take time, her own supper break, to help him with his goodbye list and maybe, just maybe, make the goodbye a little less sad.
Dr. Jude then took out her pen to sign her name by where John Jr. had printed her name. He then gave her a big hug and a sticker and I took a picture. I then to got a hug and as we left the office, John Jr., was skipping down the hallway of DeWitt Army Community Hospital clutching his goodbye list with a big smile on his face.
Thank you United States Army for having great people like Dr. Bonita Jude, DeWitt Army Community Hospital, serving the military families.
Ingrid Murray - Army Family member