His shoes remain noticeably absent. The once mounded pile of laundry in the middle of the floor is gone. All the books that lay scattered throughout his room and the house…his Bible, C.S.Lewis works, the one on Paine…sit on his dorm-room shelf. No more contagious smile and constant joking and bear hugs, no more fist bumps after I do worship on Sunday morning…not for a while at least.
He’s gone and his room is empty.
The hollow echos of my own footsteps greet me. Her favorite pictures no longer grace her desk. A dust-free zone marks where her Bible and journal sat stacked on her bedside table. I open her drawers and peek into her closet. They’re nearly empty, of course. I’m not sure what I expected to see; she took everything with her. No more cheery offers of help, no more unexpected hugs, no more impromptu movie nights or long talks on life…not for a while at least.
She’s gone and her room is empty.
Last year there was one empty bedroom. This year there are two. In twenty-four short months there will be three. Empty rooms signifying the passing of time, the changing face of our family and the growing-pains* of my heart.
All summer long an image stuck in my brain: I’m standing on a beach with a fist full of sand running through my fingers. My time with my kids, as this nuclear unit of 6, is short and the sand’s almost gone. Time is draining through my fingers and slipping away and there’s nothing I can do to stop it.
And here’s the thing: I don’t want to stop it. I want them to grow and change and mature and leave. Children are meant to grow up and have independent lives of their own. And I know my kids are exactly where they need to be. And I’m incredibly proud of the nurturing, caring, growing human beings they are. They have amazing friends and deepening faiths and strong work ethics. And my heart is truly glad for all these things; what incredible blessings!
But the leaving- oh the leaving- tugs and pulls and rips at this mother’s heart.**
But the natural ache will fade and my heart keeps beating and loving even as my kids continue growing.
And I do, truly, embrace the change knowing that there’s more and better up ahead and speak these words with the Apostle Paul:
Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. Whenever I pray, I make my requests for you with joy, for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now. And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.
So it is right that I should feel as I do about you, for you have a special place in my heart. … God knows how much I love you and long for you with the tender compassion of Christ Jesus.
I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God.
*drink a glass of milk? (family joke)
**And I think of those parents hearts who say goodbye to their children this side of heaven…who never get to move them into dorms or see them grow and mature…and I realize the ache of my separation is nothing-minuscule- compared to their pain…and my heart breaks for them.