Every Closed Eye Ain’t Sleep Proverb

MS is a 60 year old mother of five who grew up in rural Virginia.

Context: This was performed over dinner, talking about black and southern culture.


MS: My mother said this all the time.

Collector: I think I know what it is.

MS: I’m sure you do. It goes:

“Every closed eye ain’t sleep and every goodbye ain’t gone”

MS: She used this in two different contexts. The first is when she would be resting her eyes and we thought she was asleep. We’d talk around her and try to be quiet, but when her eyes were still closed, she’d recite that. When she fell ill she’d tell all her folks that. “Every goodbye ain’t gone” meaning she would see us again.

Thoughts/Analysis: This proverb can be used in a religious context also. MS’s mother was very religious and strongly believed that her and her family would reunite after death and that her soul would remain with them until then. Death/afterlife related proverbs vary over different culture but overall convey the same thing.

For variations of this proverb, see:

Nieri, Itabari. “Only in the Americas : Every Good-Bye Ain’t Gone : Family Portraits and Personal Escapades by Itabari Njeri .” Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, February 25, 1990. https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1990-02-25-bk-1997-story.html#:~:text=The%20title%20of%20this%20collection,bye%20ain’t%20gone.%E2%80%9D.