Human affection is not poured forth vainly, even though it meet no return. Love enriches the nature, enlarging, purifying, and elevating it. The wintry blasts of earth may uproot the flowers of affection, and scatter them to the winds; but this severance of fleshly ties serves to unite thought more closely to God, for Love supports the struggling heart until it ceases to sigh over the world and begins to unfold its wings for heaven. – Mary Baker Eddy
I thank my God upon every remembrance of you… – Philippians 1:3
There ain’t no way you can hold onto something that wants to go, you understand? You can only love what you got while you got it. – Kate DiCamillo, Because of Winn-Dixie
Okay. So this is the part of motherhood I never thought about when I was holding my babies in my arms – the part where they are all grown-up and need to leave to start their own lives, and you know they have to do this, and you know it’s right and you know it will be a good thing for them, but it just hurts so awfully much.
As I’ve gotten older, and my children have grown-up, my perspective on courage has changed a lot. I used to hugely admire those individuals who launched themselves into the unknown – who had the courage to sail away from home and family to explore new lands and perspectives – and I still have admiration for those people, for sure. But I’ve come to have an even greater admiration for their mothers and fathers who, knowing they might never see their children again, yet let go of them – standing on the dock, waving good-bye and smiling, as the ship headed out to open seas.
Yesterday I asked myself: If I’d known about the pain of this part, would I still have had children? Would I have willingly put myself in a position where I would love another human being so much that my heart would feel it was breaking when it came time for him to leave and start his own life – move away across the country and maybe never return but to visit one week a year?
And, in answer, a flashback came to me. My youngest son was maybe five years-old and somehow we had contrived to have an outing together, just the two of us. We were nestled in some boulders by the Puget Sound, watching the waves roll into the beach and the seagulls flying overhead, the sun shining down on us and wrapping us up in its warmth. “Isn’t this great, Mommy?” he asked. I turned to him and smiled, and asked him what was great. “Just sitting here in the sunshine with you,” he said, smiling back at me.
And it occurred to me that, yeah, for that one moment alone, it’s all been worth it.
When I woke up this morning my eyes went to the photo of Mom and me I have on my dresser. And I had a kind of epiphany. I don’t see my mom much, really, or even talk to her on the phone but maybe once a week. But I carry her around inside me all the time – in the same way that I carry around a good book I’ve read, or an amazing song I’ve heard. I’m never really separated from my mom. She’s a part of me. And I realized the same is true of my sons. No matter where they are, I’m never really separated from them – they live in me. Even though I might not always be able to keep up with the changes in their lives or their physical appearance – the essence of who they are doesn’t change, and I know that essence, and it’s in me forever and ever. I am never separated for a moment from them.
And when the grown son made a point of coming back into the room, and saying “I love you,” before heading out the door… I realized, yeah. It’s been worth it. 🙂
…if a friend be with us, why need we memorials of that friend? – Mary Baker Eddy
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8: 38-39