I can no longer pretend it isn’t happening. No more burying my head in the sand, pretending not to see what is looming on the horizon. Thirty-six days. That’s all that remain…thirty-six days until it happens. The very thought of it makes my throat close up, my heart ache and my eyes well up with tears. What is it, you ask? No, it’s not the end of the world, or the loss of a loved one or a catastrophic event. It is simply the graduation of my first-born. “Oh, is that all?” you laugh. Yes, that is all, but so much more. I had no idea it would be so hard for me to enter this season of letting go. I find I’m so much better at the holding on. Last fall, when my oldest daughter began her senior year, I found myself tearing up very easily, and very often. At one point, eating dinner out alone with her, we began talking about graduation. Molly looked at me and very sympathetically said, “Are you going to cry again, Mom?” My answer…tears. Yes, I guess I am.
As her senior year progressed and we went through the usual progression of college mail, senior pictures and discussions of her future, I managed to live mostly in denial. Whenever we began to discuss what her homeschool graduation ceremony would look like, I would manage to put off that discussion for another time. When we discussed college, and scholarships and majors, I managed to think about it unemotionally, as if it were about someone other than my own daughter. I even made it through our first campus visit with enthusiasm and a sense of nostalgia for my own college days. I designed graduation announcements and made a list of recipients, discussed travel plans with family members and even began to plan the ceremony itself.
But lurking somewhere under the surface were unwelcome thoughts about the “lasts” we were experiencing with this child. Our special family trip to Hawaii last November had a shadow of “last” about it. Would this be the last time we traveled to our favorite place as a family of five? Would our next family trip (a much beloved tradition) be as a family of four? How many more Christmases would be celebrated with all our children around our tree? As I filled out my planner for homeschool, I realized that next year there would only be two columns, instead of three. As I began to research curricula for next year, I was searching for one-third less material. And finally, as I could put it off no longer, we began to fill out graduation announcements and order cake and plan the ceremony. And I began to let myself grieve.
As I write this, I am sitting in a hotel room in Houston. My husband graciously brought me along on his business trip to give me a few days of rest. I am comfortably ensconced in a lovely hotel room with a giant desk to work on and a picture window with a view of the woods. The day is grey and drizzly and it matches my feelings as I write, uninterrupted, sorting through the feelings I have so successfully squelched for the last few months. And I ponder…why am I grieving so fiercely? It’s not like anything that major will change. Molly will be attending a local university and living at home. I’m not losing her, not having to bear leaving her at a strange place and not seeing her for months at a time. So, why is my heart so sad?
I think it is this: I see it as the beginning of the end of something beautiful. I have loved being a mother more than words can say. From the moment I first heard those long-awaited words “you’re pregnant”, I have thrived as a mother. I love being with my children, I love teaching my children, I love sharing their hearts and their lives and their dreams. I love teaching about motherhood, and writing about motherhood, and encouraging other mothers on their journey. When Molly graduates, it means the others aren’t far behind, that someday, I will be finished. My children will be grown, and there will be no do-overs. I won’t get another chance to fix the things I did wrong, to re-live the chances I missed, or to relish the moments I overlooked. For better or worse, my job will be done. And oh, how that grieves my heart.
And yet, I know that this is the point. This is why I missed all those nights of sleep, why I dried so many tears and bandaged so many knees and cheered so many successes. To raise children who love God and follow Him was the goal all along. And as I watch these precious little souls blossom into adulthood with a faith that will sustain them all the days of their lives, I smile. And in the whispers of the silence, I hear a blessing from my Father, graciously saying “Well done.” And in the midst of my grieving, I am comforted. So, while I will undoubtedly shed a few more tears before we’re done, I will also rejoice as I watch my first-born begin her adult journey, knowing that God has good plans for her future, and for mine. So, for now, I will try to enjoy every single one of those thirty-six days, and not waste a single moment.