Hi’s and Bye’s

“Communication is difficult without the grasp and execution of appropriate greetings and responses.”


Rhema’s after school team of therapists have introduced a greeting program. That is, Rhema is prompted to actually say hi or bye appropriately. Eye contact is preferred, but currently not required.

I am thrilled about the new program, but surprised at the emotions it has uncovered.

When Rhema was younger, she would not acknowledge others around her. A marching band in the living room might not elicit a response. Greetings were completely lost on her. Even today, unless you are a familiar face – with a goody perhaps – she will not “notice” if you have entered the room. 

I remember I would pick her up from the nursery with the other moms, and the children would squeal and yell their parents’ names. My child would not look up from the piece of string she was flapping.  Brandon and I went away for a weekend once, and I missed Rhema terribly.  When we returned, I was overjoyed to see her, but she seemed unfazed, indifferent – as if she could take or leave me.  Then there were the times when a therapist would ask her, “Where’s Mommy?” I would feel self-conscious and silly, hoping that she would by chance look in my direction.

I realize that with Rhema’s new greeting program, I still feel the pain of what I perceived as her rejection of me.

Today Mr. Tim (one of the best ABA therapists I have ever known) met us in the waiting room, ready to take Rhema back for her session.

“Say bye-bye to Mom, Rhema.”

“Bye bye, Rhema.” I sound cheerful, but I am raw and vulnerable.  I do a little wave and wait. And wait. And wait.

Mr. Tim prompts again.

“Say bye-bye to Mom, Rhema.”

Rhema does the wet noodle, dropping to the floor.

I begin to feel a little self-conscious, standing there, in front of the other moms in the waiting room. These mothers totally “get this.”  They understand. But I think that surely all of their children happily run to them at the end of a therapy visit and say “Hi, Mom!”

Mr. Tim stands Rhema to her feet, and I stoop in front of her.

She won’t look at me.

“Bye, bye. Rhema.”  I wave.

She begins to climb me. As if I am a rock wall.

Mr. Tim rights her again and gently tries to get her to look in my direction.

“Say bye-bye to Mom, Rhema.”

Oh Tim. It’s o.k. We can give up now. Time’s a-waistin’…

But Tim won’t give up.  He prompts her again.

Finally, she manages a “Buh buh buh.”

O.k. good enough. Thanks Tim. Thanks Rhema.

“Try again, buddy,” Tim coaxes.

Rhema turns her head back and forth. She is fidget queen. Clearly, she wants to break away from Tim’s grasp and run.  This is so hard for her.

“Try again, buddy.”

Finally, finally. It comes out. In her sweet angel whisper.

“Bye. bye.”

“Good job, Rhema!” And off they go, leaving Mom a tad emotional.


Brandon was laughing at me because I was trying to find “God greetings” in the Bible. Greetings are so important – anytime you study a foreign language some of the first words you learn are hola and adios, amigo.

I believe with all my heart that God longs to commune and communicate with us… that He does not hide His face… that we are never rejected… that He said “Hi” and started the conversation a long time ago.

But there seems to be no place in the Bible where God just sort of shows up with a ‘Hello’ or ‘Yo’ or ‘Wazzup.’

Well, maybe there is a place. In Matthew 28, there is a hi and bye of sorts. After Jesus has risen from the grave, He greets His disciples, “All hail.” According to commentaries I’ve read, the word hail here means rejoice — “a term of salutation connected with the word joy –  joy at his resurrection and at meeting them again.” 

So the one documented God-greeting I found in the Bible simply means… rejoice. How perfect. Every time my children greet me, I will try to remember the Lord’s simple salutation: Rejoice!  And I will rejoice. (Rhema’s ‘hi’ is certainly reason for joy, but I will also rejoice in the fact of a risen Savior!)

At the end of that chapter and book (Matt. 28), Jesus also says “Bye bye” (before his ascent to heaven).  The last part of His “Bye bye” is: 

And surely, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”

24 thoughts on “Hi’s and Bye’s

  1. Two things: 1. I love Tim! (he sounds patient and relentless) 2. You may have a case to eliminate greetings from the perpetual list of IEP goals that never go away. If Jesus didn’t use them, then maybe we don’t need to press so insistently for them. Different cultural norms? (I once yearned to move to a country where it’s cool to eat with your hands.) Didn’t Jesus greet the disciples with their own names “Peter, James, John…” though? Then He looked “through” others like the woman at the well, or the tax collector? It’s late out here, I’m getting punchy.

    I hate goodbyes. Sleep tight. Talk to you tomorrow. I greet you in the name of the Risen Lord. Greet you with a holy kiss (inappropriate). You’ve got me going now….You know what the angel’s greeting always is? “Don’t be afraid.” That could have some relevance lots of places. I dare you to try it on Tim next visit:)

    • Andrea, maybe you should move to Ethiopia! 8) People often eat with their hands there. In fact they feed their friends by putting a hand full of food in their mouth. It’s called “gorhsa”, and the bigger the hand full of food, the bigger the “love.”

      I love that the Lord called people by name… like Samuel and Mary Magdalene and the disciples.

  2. Hail Amiga,

    I love this post. You are such a great writer. I’m taken back to being that Mama in the waiting room. So many times standing there just as you describe.

    And here you are again drawing insightful parallels between our relationships with our children and God’s relationship with us. The image of God waiting on us as earnestly as you did for Rhema. In my case, inattention often seems rooted in short sightedness and selfishness. I think in the case of our children there is so much more in play… some intensity of emotion and feeling that overwhelms and inhibits at the same time. (sigh).

    Love ya. You’re it on the phone tag.


  3. We went through the same thing. Believe it or not we eventually got to a point that we had to tell him to stop greeting EVERYONE. I mean everyone! Then he’d get upset when they wouldn’t answer! Going into the resource room when kids are supposed to be working it would be hi so and so hi so and so. Which is against the rules, because well, the kids are working. So then there is that to deal with, but you know what? You don’t care, because they are GREETING PEOPLE. She’ll get there, esp. under Tim’s guidance and yours!

  4. Fascinating perspective – how God greets us. Rejoice. I love it!

    We’ve been talking in our congregation lately about the prayer Jesus taught us, and spent some time reflecting on the way it offers us to greet God — Our Father / Abba — an intimate greeting, maybe even with overtones of “Daddy”. I find that my on-the-go daytime prayers often start with a “Hey, God…” Almost a “yo,” perhaps!

    I am waiting for the return of Joy’s bye-bye. She was so “into” bye-byes, for a while, once even “bye-bye”d during the church service after the sermon as the speaker was stepping down from the front! But we’ve not had bye-byes for quite a while now.

    Rhema’s angel whisper. Wow. I’d be a tad emotional too.

  5. AHH! Love this, Jeneil! And, as I was reading it, I was fidgeting for you … feeling your anxiety (as in your “earnest but tense desire”).

    And, I love that you checked Scripture for God greetings. My heart was drawn to the first chapter of Luke, when Gabriel visited Mary to foretell Jesus’ birth:

    “The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.’

    Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. … For nothing is impossible with God.’

    … ‘Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!’

    … Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 1:28-45; 2:19)

    So, for now, “Bye-Bye … you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you!” (And with Rhema!) 🙂

  6. Oh, Mr. Tim!

    I know the embarrassment too well. When Foster was about 2 & I had been away on business, my friend and co-worker was dropping me off and helped me to the door with my bags. When we got to the door, and I was SO READY to fall into the arms of all my boys, Foster, who was my baby at the time, screamed and ran away. Yeah, at least he noticed I was there, right?


  7. You are such an amazing story teller – you had us all right there with you feeling that mommy, “Oh Tim. It’s o.k. We can give up now. Time’s a-waistin’…” moment. What a gem Tim is to persist and to believe in Rhema so deeply!

    When my middle child was 3 months I left with my husband for what was supposed to be a “consult” at the Mayo Clinic; they decided he needed surgery the next day, so what we thought was going to be a weekend trip turned into a month. My mother in law stayed with the kids. I will NEVER FORGET that completely crushed feeling I had when we returned. My son literally did not remember me. He didn’t light up. No smiles. In fact he preferred my Mother in Law for a short time. Heart breaking. I know I’m projecting all of that emotion into your returning from a weekend away moment; but I think the disappointment has to be similar.

    In college (I went to a Christian College) We always loved Romans 16:16 “Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ send greetings.” 😉

  8. Hi,

    Great post. I hope Rhema makes much progress in the greeting program.

    I’m a physician and former faculty member at Harvard and Stanford Medical Schools. I discovered your blog while looking for the best health writers on the web. I reviewed your posts, and think your writing would be a great addition to the Autism & Autism Spectrum Community on Wellsphere, a top 5 health website that has nearly 5 million visitors monthly. If you would like to learn more about how you can join our Health Blogger Network, republish your blog posts and be featured on the Wellsphere platform, just drop me an email at dr.rutledge@wellsphere.com.


  9. You have a gift! You draw me in, you enlighten me, you provide spiritual insight, you offer encouragement. I “leave” wanting more, I “leave” cheering Rehma on!

  10. You do have a gift for writing, sharing your experiences, and tying them in to spiritual topics. Beautiful!

    That first part was almost painful to read though, I went through the same thing with our twins, and to some extent with Bitty (he is really clingy when we leave but he hardly notices when we come back… although he’s making progress there).

    Greetings can be such a challenge – it sounds like Tim is going to be a great help to Rhema.

  11. I was right there with you in that room, breathlessly waiting for Rhema’s response. Thank God for the “Tim’s” of the world who better understand our capabilities and gifts for words.

    One of my favorite Jesus greetings is the one he offered his disciples after penetrating through a closed door.


    And you know I’m all about some Peace now.


  12. the rejection, the vulnerability, one raw nerve waiting, hoping. we get it, love. we really, truly get it.

    the beauty in every challenge, God in every tribulation, lessons in every part of the journey. you make us get that part too.

    thank you, jeneil, for allowing us to come along for the ride.


  13. How do you do it?I agree with Julie you are one of the best writers and I always want more I want to know everything Rhema and Hope do and all of the feelings you have as a wonderful Mommy.
    God has given you this wonderful gift and you use it well.
    LOve you all Much.

  14. Oh yes, I know that strange feeling of “rejection.” I love what you said in this post. It connects on so many levels. Someone told me recently that the part of the brain kids with autism use to learn language would be the same part that we would use to learn a foreign language as an adult–which is hard. So, even those “HIs & Byes” are big reasons to celebrate. Way to go, Rhema. Even though it’s hard work, I’m so glad that you’re getting to hear her sweet voice. Bless you, sister!

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