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Saying Goodbye

Rabbi Shoshana Boyd Gelfand explores the ecstasy and agony of saying goodbye, from bedtime rituals to deathbed farewells.

Rabbi Shoshana Boyd Gelfand explores the ecstasy and agony of saying goodbye. Drawing upon the words of the poet Shel Silverstein, she examines the notion that "there are no happy endings".

Human beings have developed all manner of rituals to ease the process of parting, from simple handshakes to elaborate funeral liturgies. Shoshana reveals that even the nightly ritual of saying goodnight to your children is laden with significance. She explains the Jewish bedtime ritual of saying the Shema - a prayer which is said to invoke the protection of angels.

Shoshana also explores the linguistics of saying goodbye - from the French "adieu" which commends the receiver to god, to the German "auf wiedersehen" which literally means "until we see again". Describing her experiences as a hospital chaplain, she discusses the final days and weeks of life, a "deeply scared" time when "this world and the next meet".

Shoshana concludes by arguing that, however painful parting may be, being aware that time spent together is limited makes it all the more precious. It's that awareness that impels her to make the most of her farewell rituals – using them as an opportunity to express gratitude for the people and places that enrich her life.

Presenter: Shoshana Boyd Gelfand
Producer: Max O'Brien
A TBI production for BBC Radio 4

23 days left to listen

28 minutes

Readings

Title: Every Thing On It

Author: Shel Silverstein

Publisher: Harper Collins

 

Title: Kaddish

Author: Leon Wieseltier

Publisher: Vintage

 

Title: In My Dreams

Author: Stevie Smith

Publisher: New Directions Publishing Corporation

 

Title: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Author: Marie Kondo

Publisher: Vermilion

 

Title: Brideshead Revisited

Author: Evelyn Waugh

Publisher: Penguin Classics

 

Title: Nearing the End of Life: A Guide for Relatives and Friends of the Dying

Author: Sue Brayne, Dr Peter Fenwick

Publisher: University of Southampton

 

Title: The Coral Island

Author: R. M. Ballantyne

Publisher: Wordsworth Editions

Music

Title: The End

Performer: Sibylle Baier

Album: Colour Green

Label: Orange Twin Records

 

Title: The Parting Glass

Performer: The Voice Squad

Album: Many's The Foolish Youth

Label: Tara

 

Title: The Angels' Blessing

Performer: Debbie Friedman

Album: Renewal of Spirit

Label: Sounds Write Productions

 

Title: She's Leaving Home

Performer: The Beatles

Album: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

Label: Parlophone

 

Title: So Long, Farewell

Performer: The Sound of Music Cast

Album: The Sound of Music

Label: BMG Music

 

Title: We'll Meet Again

Performer: Vera Lynn

Album: Vera Lynn

Label: Parlophone

Broadcasts