In Minnesota, our goodbyes tend to linger like a perpetual conversation; while at other times, the goodbye can abruptly come to a close. Imagine removing a bandage. You can take your time and remove it step by step, or you can let it rip to get it over with in one swift moment.
    Some cows take forever to say goodbye. We know they need to head out the barn door, but we keep postponing their send off until we absolutely need the stall or their production has finally slipped enough to justify culling her. It can be hard to say goodbye when you have watched this cow grow older along with you every day. Then you start to notice the signs that the end of her days is fast approaching as she struggles to lunge forward with enough momentum to hoist her hind end up in a smooth and graceful motion. Then, in a different moment, she appears to have found new strength and vigor. When does the goodbye finally come?
    Did you know a Minnesota goodbye is a real thing? Real enough to be found in a Google search. I have always noticed how the goodbye conversation can last longer than the original visit. We say we need to get going, and yet we start a topic of discussion delaying our departure. It seems these goodbyes take on a life and language all of its own. Here is what I have noticed about a Minnesota goodbye.
    Step 1: Start early with a warning shot. “Look at the time. We really need to start heading out soon.” This is kind of like the 30 minute warning buzzer round.
    Step 2: Repeat your statement. “We really need to leave. It’s time to go.” Keep the conversation going.
    Step 3: Hug everyone goodbye around you and say goodbye.
    Step 4: Walk to the door while continuing the conversation.
    Step 5: Start to put on your shoes while you chat some more. “Which reminds me, did you hear?”
    Step 6: Rapid fire conversation. This is where you suddenly recall new information to share with the group and questions will be asked which will delay your departure. This is all done while you are putting on your coat.
    Step 7: Hand is on the door knob. This signals the final send off and well wishes. “See you soon. Drive safe.” A final round of hugs.
    For the past 10 weeks, we have had the chance to say goodbye to Mark’s dad, Ralph. It was a continuously flowing conversation as we all came to grips with the meaning of this final goodbye. Just after his 93rd birthday, Ralph ended up in the hospital, and it was determined there was nothing medically left they could do to treat his cancer. He moved into a hospice home, and we started this long procedure. He had his hand on the door knob several times ready to go but not quite yet. There was still a story to tell, a memory to share, advice to give and parting words of wisdom to leave. Everyone made the extra effort to make lasting memories with Ralph.
    I always teased him about being the healthiest person in hospice. He did not have any pain. He pushed himself to walk to the dining room for every meal. He kept up with the latest news and current events. He was showing us all how to live when you know you are dying. He was making memories for us to carry. At the rate he was going, I had it all arranged of how to get him to the church for Michael’s wedding next weekend. But sadly, the conversation came to a close. His hand was on the door knob, and he said his final goodbye.
    I think our long Minnesota goodbyes are an attempt to stop time and linger in the moment to say all the things we need to say, to leave a lasting mark, to relish the hugs and connections we have made with others. But, goodbyes are not forever. They are another way of saying … until we meet again.
    We could use our Minnesota goodbyes in a new state advertising campaign. Minnesota: Come for the kindness. Stay because it takes too long to say goodbye. You betcha.
    Natalie, Mark and his brother Al, farm together near Rice, Minn. They milk 100 registered Holsteins under the RALMA prefix. Their four children are grown up and all involved in agriculture with hopes of someone returning to the farm. For questions or comments, please e-mail Natalie at mnschmitt@jetup.net