No Good Bye

“We were not meant for endings.”*

The first time I heard these words I was attending a women’s workshop in Washington. I didn’t just hear these words but felt them in the pit of my soul. Endings have marked me and my story since the beginning of my life here on this earth. 

One of the most significant and cruel endings I have faced occurred the day I turned 18. It is an ending that I was not meant for yet had to endure. This ending came after a long and tortuous path that held no sense of “good” bye. 

The month leading up to my 18th birthday was filled with graduation parties, rehearsals for a musical, and packing up my things in the cool, dark basement. Every day was marked with fear, anxiety, and terror. What would my birthday look like and how was everything going to go down? At this point in my home, no one talked to me and I was merely coexisting in my family of six, so I had no real clue of what was going to happen to me. 

I had done all that I could to prepare for the next stage of life as an adult. I got an Identification card, grabbed my shot records, and picked up a driver’s education manual so I could study it and be prepared to take my driver’s test. While many of my friends were picking out new furnishings for their dorm rooms, taking family vacations, and spending long weekends at their cabins, I was trying to figure out how to adult, but more so, how to survive. 

A week before I turned 18, two hardware packages appeared on the kitchen counter. They were two sets of silver door knobs and locks that indicated the severity of what was just around the corner. Every time I came through the kitchen, those knobs and locks laid on the counter haunted me. Those locks represented permanency and cruelty, a shutting out and never coming back. 

The day before my birthday, a friend dropped me off at my home after our musical rehearsal, and since our garage door was shut, I walked to the back door. I was stunned to see my adoptive dad kneeling on a little green foam mat at the back door with a few tools scattered on the ground. I felt my belly get tight and my heart beat increase. He was changing the locks on the doors, and I was going to be the only one who didn’t receive a new set of keys. 

I couldn’t bear to pause or exchange words, and I wanted to get out of his sight as soon as possible. I made it past him and went inside and downstairs to the basement. I stood there stunned—this was for real. This was it. 

I gathered up a little energy and finished packing my things in garbage bags and boxes. I laid in bed that night foolishly wondering if anyone would come downstairs and say anything to me, but no one did. I wondered how the next day would go. I knew I had to be off my family’s property by midnight, or they would call the police and have me removed. This was what I was told consistently during the past years, and I knew it wasn’t a bluff. I closed my eyes and drifted off to sleep, out of utter exhaustion. 

The morning of my 18th birthday I awoke to footsteps above me shuffling around. I laid in bed staring at the wood-beam ceiling and wondered what would the day hold. I knew I had a long musical dress rehearsal and opening show that evening, but that was all I knew. The shuffling above me stopped, and I heard the garage door open and close. I got up, slowly got myself ready, and went upstairs with trepidation. 

I listened and couldn’t hear anything or anyone. No one was home. I called my friend’s mom, Mrs. Johnson, and told her I was ready to be picked up. Mrs. Johnson came with her van, loaded my couple of boxes and garbage bags, and we pulled out of my driveway and went to my friend’s house before rehearsal. 

There was no “good” bye.

There was no confetti, balloons, fruit crisps, flowers, nor “Happy Birthday.” It was yet another significant severing of connection and relationship, insidiously on the same anniversary that marks my birth and the anniversary of being separated from my birth mom. 

My birthday is not meant for good or bad byes. It’s a day I have sought to reclaim, redeem, and mark with joy—because this is what I was meant for. 

* Dan Allender

Sandhya Oaks is a ministry leader, spiritual director, writer, and speaker. She is fiercely committed to inviting people to curiosity and possibility through hosting Kintsugi Story Workshops and Story Retreats. She is one who brings light to dark places and invites others to courageously do the same. She is a Transracial Adoptee with Pakistani and Indian roots, and her joys include traveling, gathering around the table, and water sports. You can find more of her good work at