Have you ever had an epiphany days, weeks or months after an eye-opening situation in your life?

What I am talking about is having a life-changing experience and have it take days, weeks, or months later to sink in or to learn the lesson from it.

Oh, that only happens to me? Ummm, I am thinking not, but let me press on.

It is always best for me to start at the beginning because, frankly, I can lose my train of thought or forget where I was going with an idea fairly quickly nowadays.

Several months ago, my BFF, Sue, had to put her cherished Sheltie, Tipper, to sleep. It was a sad time for not only her daughters and herself, but her friends who knew Tipper. Sue and I bonded as friends for several reasons, but the main reason at first was our dysfunctional dogs. My dog, Gabby, is highly dysfunctional, and Tipper, not so much, but close.

I remember the night we took both dogs with us as we were going to an outside restaurant to have dinner. They were extremely cute, so of course everyone wanted to pet them. However, that was not going to happen, not with these two pups. Neither wanted to be touched by anyone except for a few family members.

Tipper, being of the male species, would growl at anyone who came close, and Gabby being female, would just whimper, cry and whine anytime anyone came close.

Soon their cuteness wore off with the crowd, and Sue and I were opening our mouths more to say, “No, not friendly, don’t get near,” than we were to put food in them.

We both noticed some hostility with the crowd growing, as we got the impression a group-think was going on among our fellow diners along the lines of “why would you bring two cute but unfriendly, dysfunctional dogs to an outdoor place with lots of people who would want to pet them but can’t?”

Yeah, we got it, and because of that, neither dog got to go many places. Nevertheless, both dogs were greatly loved.

And as my son likes to point out to me, “What is it with you, Mom? You attract the most dysfunctional dogs.”

It was sad when Tipper left us, and I asked Sue when and if she was going to get another dog. Sue said she didn’t think she would. She likes to travel, and having a dog can tie you down.

Well, just the other day, Sue told me she has put her name on a list for a new Sheltie. Boy, I was happy to hear that, as I am a true dog lover and think every home needs one or maybe even two. We were talking and both of us decided it was highly unlikely she would have another dysfunctional dog, and that is when I had my epiphany.

Isn’t it amazing how many times in life we need to say goodbye to something before we can say hello to something else. The something will be new, but most probably very different, and the process of saying goodbye is difficult. God’s new isn’t always easy, but it certainly is better in ways we might have to think about and live through a while before we realize it.

I had to say goodbye to my old ta-tas to say hello to a life without cancer. I had to say goodbye to my hair so I could say hello to chemo treatments that would help save my life.

Many of us have and will say goodbye to a loved one to be able to say hello to them as they greet us in heaven.

Not that I am planning on going anytime soon, but I think of all the wonderful family and friends who will be there in heaven to say hello to me when it is my time to go.

I thought about Jesus’ followers at the time of his ascension. They had a joyous time spending another 40 days with him after his crucifixion, and they didn’t want him to leave. But eventually he needed to say goodbye so they and we could say hello to the Holy Spirit.

When we have to say goodbye to something or someone, God never leaves us empty-handed. What we are left with may not be what we wanted or think we should have, and because of that we may get angry at God.

I think of the Israelites. Out in the desert with nothing but manna, they cry out to God to take them back to Egypt, where they had vegetables and meat. But it wasn’t to be, as God had a “land of milk and honey” for them to say hello to after a goodbye to their not-so-good life in Egypt.

Honestly, as perky as the new ta-tas are, I miss my old ones, and certainly miss the hair I used to have. I mean, I really, really do miss these things, as vain as that may sound. But to keep them might have lost my life, and that certainly wasn’t what I wanted.

In her book, “One Thousand Gifts Devotional,” author Ann Voskamp quotes Charles Spurgeon: “There is no greater mercy that I know of on earth than good health except it be sickness; and that has often been a greater mercy to me than health. ... It is a good thing to be without a trouble; but it is a better thing to have a trouble, and know how to get grace enough to bear it.” Goodbye trouble-free life, hello God’s grace! God never leaves us empty-handed in our goodbyes, does he? It’s hard sometimes to remember, but there is always a hello waiting after the goodbye for God’s own.

Michelle Fitzpatrick is a recent breast cancer survivor who lives on James Island. She has three grandchildren and is an adjunct faculty member with the Art Institute of Charleston. Follow her blog at michellefitzpatrick gabby.wordpress.com.