Goodbye for Now

And so it begins… My emotions and dramatic behavior are beginning to spin out of control. Well, I take that back. It actually began on March 2, 2002, when my first daughter entered this world and stole my heart. My most recent emotional breakdown, however, stems from her moving to Arizona this coming weekend as she embarks on her college adventure.
It’s hitting me that I will no longer do so many little things for her that I’ve always done. I often make her iced coffees with vanilla almond milk and French vanilla creamer. Last weekend, I bought a container of almond milk, so she would have enough for this week, but then it occurred to me that it was the last almond milk I will buy for a long time. The same is true of the multigrain bread and avocados I bought so she can make her favorite breakfast meal for one more week.
My wife is making it worse, although she’s as sad as I am (almost). Last night, she said, “Aw, this is our last Monday evening dinner with her.” Tonight, I expect her to say the same thing about our Tuesday meal. When our daughter was young, we enjoyed celebrating so many “firsts” with her; now, we must deal with the “lasts.”
I walk through her room and it’s getting emptier. Many pieces of clothing are no longer on hangers. More and more luggage is packed and sitting on her floor, waiting to leave with her. Bins full of dorm room supplies are gathered and waiting in similar fashion. I just asked my younger daughter if she’s going to take care of me, since she’s soon to be our only child remaining at home.
What will help me (hopefully) get through this is the same thing that helped me three years ago, when our son, our firstborn child, left home and moved far away to attend college. What allows me to hang on is related to some wise thoughts from a blogger and author named Kami Gilmour, who wrote a book entitled, Release My Grip: Hope for a Parent’s Heart as Kids Leave the Nest and Learn to Fly. In her book, she shares a prayer in which she asked God to keep her from expressing too much extreme emotion, because she wanted her child to know that she was more proud than sad, and that she was more excited than afraid about what was next.
I think that’s the secret to surviving our kids leaving the nest. In what to me is the most helpful statement from her book, she writes this: “Be fully present to support them and look forward to the future through the lens of their life, not backward through the lens of my life.” I need to avoid being so preoccupied by mourning what I’m “losing” that I neglect to focus on how exciting this new phase of life will be for my daughter. This is especially true when she already lost so many things as a graduating senior in the year of COVID. This season is about her, not about me.
I’m in awe of God, who gave me the honor and the privilege of raising this young lady. And I know that while life is changing drastically, she won’t be gone forever. It’s a new phase of parenthood, with lots of coming and going, of saying “goodbye for now” and “welcome home” again and again. Nothing will separate her from my love or God’s love. To quote Gilmour once more, “He still holds her in the palm of His hand even though she’s let go of mine.”
Troy Burns