“Well sir,” the Fat Man tells Sam Spade at the end of The Maltese Falcon, “ the shortest farewells are the best.”
Or are they?
In this issue we offer the stories of five very different stories of farewells.
None are as brief as the Fat Man’s “adieu.”
The stories begin in Israel’s Negev Desert, where a man has finally come to visit the grave of his best friend, who died thirty-five years earlier. He has come to make sense of both a friendship that endured through distance, time, and death, and a country which became his friend’s destiny, but not his.
The stories continue in Virginia, at the campus of Washington and Lee University, which is wrestling with whether the time has come to bid farewell to the outsized legacy of its namesake, Robert E. Lee, and the Lost Cause of the Confederacy. A struggle all the more fraught given that Lee lies in eternal repose in the campus chapel.
Then to a Midwestern prison where an inmate is terrified of freedom, knowing that release can well mean a return to her opiate addiction, and with it, death by overdose. Better to stay inside, where it is safe.
From there to a remote region of northern Scandinavia where the descendants of generations of reindeer herders are in a fight to preserve the world of their forebearers, even as the snows melt more quickly and the inexorable forces of change invade. Not farewell. Not yet.
Finally, to Youngstown, Ohio, where a young journalist is packing up his desk, preparing to leave the newsroom of his dying hometown paper. He has left twice before. This will be the last goodbye and before he leaves he must decide which stories to carry with him.
As we all do when we say farewell, he must choose what he wishes to remember.