I'm sort of passed this stage…for the moment, having launched Eldest Engineer and Barefoot Wanderer some years back; Youngest Mystery just turned 13, so we've got some time yet (although there are days when launching would feel like a "best practices" decision….But no. Not yet.) Here on Hickory Lane we are still knee deep in sports equipment and shoes, transitioning from home school to part time traditional school, and floundering in the free-fall of the arrival of adolescence. But I watch what is happening around me every autumn, as parents send their nearly grown kids off to college or someother great adventure. Annually, I watch friends and acquaintances faltering in the wash of grief, many of them looking shell shocked and more than a little bewildered, and my heart returns to memories of grief unspoken. I remember.
The year prior to my personal walk through the swamp of Goodbye Grief, I questioned someone about it. She was right in the middle of her first launch, and I will never forget her response: "It's like open heart surgery. Without anesthesia." And I remember my (inner) response: "Well, that's a little dramatic." But her words caused me to pause, for she was not a woman given to overstatement. She was low key, level headed…actually one of the least dramatic people I knew. So, hmmm. I filed away her words, and wondered. Soon, so soon, it was my turn. Her words resurfaced in my mind, and I knew she was absolutely correct. I found solace in our shared sorrow. Her honest words gave me permission to embrace the grief and know I would survive as she had. But I wanted to remember.
-the last first-day-of-school,
-the senior pictures
-the last ______ game (you fill in the sport,)
-the last Christmas concert.
Still,it is easy in the generally hectic pace of life to sidestep the inevitable, to ignore the camel's nose in the corner of the tent until suddenly it's graduation. Most students have plans to move on from home to somewhere, and parents find it hard to comprehend/accept/absorb the anticipation oozing from their "child." Abruptly, the camel of the coming separation can be disregarded no longer. It's a big messy beast standing in the middle of every moment, every interaction. The tension around home often goes up (way up, in some cases!!) and most parents secretly waver between two thoughts: "Do you have to go?" and "Can I help you pack?!!"
It is time.
Time for launch.
Time for the fledgling to embark on the next adventure.
And suddenly, the deed is done.
The accumulated pile of "stuff" has been loaded,
And it is time to say goodbye.
There are stories among honest parents of long drives home in silence and sobs.
Of moments of staring at the phone, waiting for it to ring already.
Of quiet visits to an empty room.
Of pulling the remaining clothes from the closet and inhaling the memory of a lost era.
It seems that only last week they were very small and very helpless and very much in need of us 24-7.
And now all we have left are the memories - that little boy clumping around in someone's shoes, the pony-tail girl twirling in her new skirt, the sound of that truck pulling in at too-late o'clock, the mad morning rush.
Yes, we know this was our destination all along, our goal – an independent adult who can function in the world, make a contribution, have a life. We get that. But goodbye always precedes the next hello, and that youngster who sat on the kitchen counter to talk over the day won't really be back. Yes we know she will be home next weekend, maybe all next summer. (oh dear?!) We know we'll make new memories. But it might take awhile to forge a relationship with the adult she is becoming, and that unknown-ness feels foreign next to the familiar scattering of stray barrettes in the bathroom closet. (True, she hasn't used them for years, but here they still are, and here are these tears again…)
We can't expect our kids to "get" this. Mostly, they are clueless – as clueless as we were when we blithely left our parents behind so many years ago... yesterday. We must not look to our eager-to-move on offspring for support or understanding. Newly fledged robins, pedal-flying for high places shouldn't be pulled earthward with our wet feathered tears.
Love them, launch them, let them go.
But go ahead and cry.
Smile and wave, then turn and sob.
It's okay to do that.
Yes, we'll get through it. Everyone does. But we don't have to be ashamed of the journey, and we can't rush it.
We can acknowledge the hurt, the loss, the grief.
We can take time together, to care, to commiserate.
We can pray for each other, and for our children in new ways, trusting God to be at work in their lives with or without our assistance and suggestions!
We can bless them as they move forward on their own journey.
We can bless each other as we sniffle our way forward on our own journey.