Between Hello and Goodbye: A Letter to my Daughter on her 8th Grade Graduation

Dear Haley,

I’m proudly writing you this letter on the eve of your 8th grade graduation. Tomorrow night, you will deliver an original, farewell speech, chosen by your teachers to be read at the conclusion of the ceremony.

The night before the speech was due, you came to me holding your laptop, and through a sly smile said, “Dad, I need your help.”

I rolled my eyes away from the baseball game on TV, “When is it due?”


“Haley, what have I told you about waiting until the last minute to do school work?”

“I know. I’m sorry. I just didn’t know what to write.”

Nestled in the bramble of clichés and generalizations about memories and school, you wrote, “School doesn’t teach us the concept of goodbye.”

You and I sat at the kitchen table and talked about how that one line strikes a lonely universal nerve. How school or your dad can’t teach you to say goodbye or even hello. How in this life, you’re responsible for your own greetings and salutations.

You nodded, began to write, stopped, let out a sigh like I often do, and said, “I don’t know what to write.”

“Write about saying goodbye.”

“That’s it? Goodbye?”

“Yeah, goodbye. Like it or not, we all have to learn to say goodbye.”

At that moment I couldn’t tell if you wanted to cry or punch me in the face. But after a deep stare, you turned your blue eyes to the computer, and began writing.

As I watched you write, it occurred to me that this is your first major goodbye. Yes, you said goodbye to your first babysitter and to the private pre-kindergarten school mom and I could barely afford but felt it was the best place for our quiet and shy daughter. Yet somehow you’re 14-years-old and somehow you’re now painfully aware saying goodbye is simply the admittance fee for entering adulthood.

When you were 4 or 5-years-old, mom and I showed you our wedding video that included a montage of mom and I as kids. You stood, as kids often do, too close to the TV, spellbound by the youthful images of mom and I on the screen. When the video ended, you quietly sat on the living room floor and cried. Mom and I looked at each other.

“Haley, what’s wrong?” Mom asked.

Tears fell, lips trembled, and you looked down at the light brown carpet and said, “I don’t want to get old.”

It’s hard to imagine that you, the little girl crying on the carpet, will grow old and maybe even become a mother someday. And someday, you may feel what I’m feeling right now sitting at the kitchen table with you. Which is a strange mix of love and sadness knowing you’re preparing to say your first goodbye in a lifetime of goodbyes.

Here’s some advice: in a lifetime of goodbyes please develop the courage to say hello.

After you say hello, I hope you reveal yourself. Ask good questions. Tell good stories. Put down your phone. Laugh. Value sunshine and deep breaths. Let love and gratitude guide all your decisions. Try your best. Ease people’s burdens. Accept change. And when time urges, have the firmness and confidence to say goodbye and move forward.

Goodbye. Seven letters, two-syllables captures life’s brevity. Our brief passage through elementary school simply introduces the emotional weight of time’s passing. Of growing old.

However, when you look back on your life, I hope saying goodbye makes you value the moments you failed to value between the hello and goodbye. Like when your lying on the couch watching a baseball game and your child, who is now more an adult than a child, looks at you with big, blue eyes and says, “I need your help.”



I want to welcome everyone who recently subscribed to my blog through the Book Funnel promotion and received a free eBook version of Bedtime Stories for the Living. I hope you enjoy the book. And I hope my silly, dad brain brings you insight, comfort, and humor each Friday.

Through Book Funnel’s June promotions, I’ve teamed up with over 50 awesome authors to help promote our books. These books are nonfiction and range from self-improvement to memoirs. Please checkout the links below:

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Last Week’s Post:  Trouble with the Left Hook

Yet I learned writing and fighting are exercises in perseverance. In endurance. Sentence after sentence, round after round, it takes guts and a dogged determination to write something meaningful or to battle an opponent–seen or unseen–until the final bell.

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Bedtime Stories for the Living recently received not ONE…not TWO…but THREE highly coveted 5-Star ratings from Reader’s Favorite–a highly-respected literary website that reviews books from all over the world!!!

Readers’ Favorite Review by Emma Megan

Jay Armstrong, a high school English teacher, explains in “Bedtime Stories for the Living: A Father’s Funny and Heartbreaking Memoir About The Power of Pursuing Your Dreams” how he was diagnosed with a rare, degenerative brain disease. This striking memoir contains wonderful love letters for each of Jay’s children, beautiful true stories, and precious life lessons and advice. It also contains what Jay never told his kids, what he felt like saying to them but failed as life got in the way. In “Bedtime Stories for the Living”, Jay talks about poetry and books, the importance of writing and its impact on his life, offering aspiring writers valuable writing tips. He also talks about the beauty and the challenges of life, of being a parent, and the difficulty of dealing with a rare disease.

You cannot read this breathtaking memoir and still be ungrateful for your health. “Bedtime Stories for the Living” by Jay Armstrong is the best motivational book I’ve ever read. Jay’s writing style is addictive, mainly because it’s nostalgic, vulnerable, and filled with wisdom and sorrow. In his uniqueness, Jay inspires and encourages not only his children but all his readers to figure out their dreams and to chase the one that brings them joy, to read poetry, and never to ignore their internal voice. He reminds them that they are responsible for how they adapt to change. “Bedtime Stories for the Living” is truly an empowering book as it speaks to the heart and the mind and delivers inspirational life lessons and unique stories. It’s undoubtedly a must-read.

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Are you a reader? Looking for your next good book to read or listen to? Check out my new page “Jay’s Book Shelf” for some book recommendations.

Here’s what I’m currently reading: Educated by Tara Westover

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Jay Armstrong is a writer, speaker, former high school English teacher, and an award-winning authorDespite being diagnosed with a rare neurological disease, that impairs his movement, balance, eyesight, and speech–Jay presses on. The leader of the Philadelphia Ataxia Support Group, he hopes to help you find joy, peace, and meaning in life. For Jay, a good day consists of 5 things:

1. Reading
2. Writing 
3. Exercising
4. Hearing his three children laugh
5. Hugging his wife
(Bonus points for a dinner with his parents or a drink with his friends)

Jay hasn’t had a bad day in quite a long time. 

You can also visit Jay at

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