‘I am going away and I will come back to you’

How exactly do you say goodbye? And is it ever really “goodbye” or is it simply, “see you later”? Now, at the end of my summer experience here at Brown University, I’m faced with wishing well the 19 incredible graduate students I’ve had the opportunity to spend the past 10 weeks with. As we part, we’ll travel across the country, to places near and far, to complete our respective graduate programs. We’ll return to friends we left behind to embark on a new journey here in “The Ocean State,” we’ll develop routines we had set in place before we left, before we knew of a new routine that would come to be brightened by the same faces for each of our next 71 days. 

In May, we’ll complete our degrees, proudly walk across our respective stages, and embark on yet another journey — the job search and our professional careers. There will be trials we’ll each face. We’ll struggle, maybe we’ll have doubts, we’ll lean on each other from miles away. But first, we have to say goodbye. How do you say goodbye to family, though? How do you say goodbye to those who taught you so much but must simply depart? 

Thinking this way, I’m propelled to take a lesson from the words we read in John’s Gospel. While I can never know what it was truly like to experience saying goodbye to Jesus, I can imagine that the feelings shared among His 12 closest followers at the Last Supper were overwhelming. However, the message included in what is known to many as Jesus’ farewell discourse that resonates with me is the following: “Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. You heard Me tell you, ‘I am going away and I will come back to you.’ And now I have told you this before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe” (Jn 27-29). 

He proceeded to share the parable of the vine and the branches, closing with “It was not you who chose Me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may giveth you. This I command you: love one another” (Jn 16-17).When Christ finally left them, they had these words, His message, a directive. Just so, we too have a directive. We must not be troubled or afraid, for we’ll be back with one another in a time so short, but still so unforeseen. We were chosen to be here among each other by another, both worldly and other-worldly. And we were set forth on paths to be lights in the student affairs world, bringing forth a beautiful example of what we were for each other this summer to the students we will forever encounter — kindness, compassion, respect, support, guidance. 

Just as the disciples had to do with Jesus, so will I carry them in my heart until I see them again, all along teaching others what they’ve taught me — a strikingly similar set of values to those we learn in our faith to embody — faith, hope, love. There was a greater purpose for us all being in this one special place this summer. It was not my own. I struggled with the very idea of returning to the Northeast, as I eagerly applied for internships in places I’d never traveled before. But after my first week and now as I enter into my 10th and final week, it is abundantly clear that there was a reason Brown was to be my home with summer. Because home is where the heart is, and these individuals are my heart. They’ve captured it, they’ve captivated it, it belongs to them. I hope they take a piece of mine with them when they go, just as I will theirs. 

Anchor columnist Renee Bernier graduated from Stonehill College and is a graduate student in the College Student Personnel Program at James Madison University in Harrison, Va.

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