People are always asking me, “How do you say good-bye in Cherokee?” or “How do you say good-bye in Tla Wilano?”
Here’s the thing.
In many/most Indigenous American cultures there is no concept of “good-bye,” not a temporary one and certainly not a long-term or permanent one.
Good-bye carries the notion that you will not be seeing that person again. In a culture where there is no concept of a permanent departure, there can be no good-byes. There is only, “until we meet again” and “and so,” which is an internally understood concept of continuation.
Imagine you are going on a trip. You make plans. You choose a vehicle, either you rent one, borrow one, or buy one. You choose the vehicle in which you will travel based on the kind of trip you’re taking. You certainly wouldn’t choose a mini-van to cross the ocean or a boat to travel over land!
Your journey begins the moment you get into your vehicle and it ends the moment you get out. However, when you exit the vehicle, YOU do not end. You do not cease to be. You continue to exist outside the vehicle. You’ve reached your destination. You are in some other place and your vehicle stays parked where you left it until some outside force moves it.
Now, think of our lives on earth as vehicles on a road. Think of our bodies as our vehicles. We are each driving our own custom-made vehicle that will only operate for its precise owner. You cannot drive another person’s vehicle and they cannot drive yours! Our vehicles come in all colors, shades, shapes, sizes, makes and models. These vehicles are not really us, but mere descriptors of us, just as our skin color, gender, size, etc., are NOT WHO WE ARE but merely descriptors of our vehicles.
We exist before we ever get in our vehicles and we exist after we get out of them!
It is only in this life that we have a beginning and an ending. Life within the confinements of time and physical space is a journey along the way in our never-ending existence and in order to travel through this life, we need a vehicle–a physical body through which we can interact with the physical world. So, we are spiritual beings traveling through a physical dimension. There’s an old gospel song that says, “This world is not my home, I’m only passing through….” How true that is! We stay here until our spirits are ready to leave, then we go home. Even when our minds compel us to stay, our spirits know when it’s time to go.
Here, there is a beginning and ending of the physical, because we are on a journey. We are spirit beings and even when we leave our earth-traveling vehicles or houses, we are not gone. We just get out of the car. We transcend. We are still very much here and very much alive.
Recently, I’ve seen several friends depart from this world and several more who almost departed and it just keeps coming to me that they are not gone, they have merely parked their cars and gotten out because they reached their destination–home, a place where only spirit travelers can go, a place where you have to park your car before you can enter.