Eight months ago, I penned these words as I reflected on the experience of dropping my daughter off at college.
When I remembered why I was lying in a hotel bed in Nashville, Tn., the floodgates opened. For a moment, I could barely breathe, my lungs filled with sadness. I tried to stifle my cry, placating my thoughts with my usual fare of distraction and minimizing. “You’ve done this before.” “A lot of parents are doing the same thing.” “It could be worse.” “She’s in a good place.” “You are not alone.” Yet, I was. As opposed to other times when I would avoid or deny or flee from the emotional impact of the experience, this time I decided to let myself be in the moment. Tears cascaded down my cheeks as a lifetime passed before my eyes.
Tonight, she’s coming home. You never know how you will navigate these transitions. In some ways, if feels like a blink of an eye. In other ways, I’m awe-struck we made it all these months. A kid at college is a poignant reminder that you can be away from someone and with them all the time, at the same time.
Jesus said this to his disciples, “I will be with you always.” But he wasn’t, at least physically. Yet I can imagine for the disciples he was present-at times palpably, other times as a faint notion, still other times not consciously, but simply in the way that they did things, encountered their world. You can be away from someone physically and still be with them.
So we made that adjustment. Now we prepare for another. She will return, with mounds of clothes and an even deeper pile of experiences that shaped her. We want it to be the same but it won’t be. Even if feels like normal, her experiences will have shaped her and ours have shaped us. She learned she can live on her own. We pressed on well without her in the house. I got used to four piles of laundry not five; it’s neater, less chaotic. It costs less to go out and eat with four than five and we fit more comfortably in the car. It’s weird to say, but it is so. We pressed on well without her in the house.
But, there was still the empty chair at the table–an ever present reminder that though we were whole as a family of four, we weren’t complete. In a few weeks, our oldest will also be home from college, maybe for the last summer. With six in our house, including five jobs and three cars, the summer will be chaotic and messy and we’ll probably irritate one another, especially the college kids, because there will be guidelines about when people can come and go. But, we’ll love it! Every minute of it.
If the blur of the last eight months reminds me of anything it reminds me of this: Don’t lose the moment, the day, always thinking about the future or ruminating on your past.
So, when she arrives her bed will be made, her closet cleared of all the extra winter clothes we stored there. There will be cheese and crackers, drinks for all ages, laughter and tears. For that moment, the whole world will be contained in our living room. Past will be past. The future will wait. The moment will be all we have.
It’s Monday. What about today, the moments of your day, deserve to be cherished? Peace. Kai