Never Can Say Goodbye


Barbara Brenner

by Karen Topakian

I should have said a proper goodbye yesterday to my dear friend Barbara Brenner but I didn’t. I couldn’t.

Even though I’m confident that I truly will never see her again in this shape or form. I told her she certainly would appear in my dreams, my heart, my memory. Because all others who have passed before her do.

We just hugged. I kissed her on the cheek and said, “See you later alligator.”

A cowardly response.

I’m not surprised at myself.  I come from a family and a culture that appears physiologically and psychologically incapable of ever saying goodbye. To anyone. Under any circumstances.

Ask my cousins how many times we stood in their doorways wearing our coats, talking for another 15-20-30 minutes, even if we had just spent hours talking. Saying goodbye. While my father ran the engine in the driveway.

We and many others dubbed it, “the Armenian” goodbye.

I suggested to my parents that I thought the derivation of the lengthy departure ritual might have come from our ancestors who lived in small villages in Armenia, miles apart from each other. And goodbyes proved difficult because you didn’t know if or when you would see the other person again. My ever-practical father said, “but we can drive here in 15 minutes.”

And I can walk to Barbara’s in 15 minutes.

This time it’s real. And I know that. For the first time ever, Barbara and I didn’t end our visit referring to our calendars to make another date.


  1. Chris Pritchard says:

    I am so sorry you have lost your friend, Karen. What was so wonderful, though, we’re those moments you spent anticipating her departure. That was not cowardly, it was having the courage to love.

    • Karen Topakian says:

      Chris, thank you. She’s still with us. Not sure for how much longer. She told me yesterday I couldn’t be sad cuz she was still here. so i perked right up.

  2. Lovely, simple piece, Karen. Thank you.

  3. Liesel Fenner says:

    Karen, your writing is beautiful and such an honoring of Barbara’s life. I was also without words to say goodbye after only being e-introduced to Barbara a short 6 months ago. She sparked the BC activist in me and I will remember her in the onward fight. Special thanks to you and Peg for e-introducing us.

    • Karen Topakian says:

      Thank you Liesel. saying goodbye is impossible. Barbara and i have been colleagues and friends for a very long time. i’m glad you had the chance to experience her wit, wisdom and razor sharp mind.

  4. Jo Ann madigan says:

    Beautifully written Karen. We are all without words….but yours help.

  5. so beautiful…..maybe we are never supposed to say good bye? your words are really gorgeous and full of love and warmth.

    • Karen Topakian says:

      Thanks Melissa. i think you are right. we aren’t supposed say goodbye. i’m glad you liked the piece. it woke me up in the middle of the night, literally. i had to get up and write it.

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