My last few posts have been about sending our firstborn to college. There are many emotions surrounding this experience and I have been bracing myself for them pretty much since I found out of was pregnant all those years ago.
However, within this first week of him being gone, our family has been touched twice in a very personal way.
Two friends of ours have intentionally asked me for his mailing address so they can send a note of encouragement or a care package.
That in itself is very kind and we are grateful for their generosity. But their backstory is what melts my heart.
One friend lost her husband last year about this time. It was an extremely traumatic day as he had taken his own life. And, as God would design it, my firstborn and his sister were first on the scene, by my asking.
The short version of that day is we saw something was very wrong, but I was detained, so I asked my two oldest teens to see what they could do to help. None of us ever, ever imagined what they would walk into.
As my friend was called from work to come, among the myriad of emergency vehicles, etc. she arrived to see my two kids waiting.
In the midst of the many emergency responders, there stood my teens–barefoot in shorts and t-shirts.
They stayed with my friend for over an hour, offering her a hug and shoulder to lean on.
A while later, to my utter amazement, I turned to see my two teens sitting in a tight circle linked together arm-and-arm with my friend and her daughter, praying. It was one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen.
Afterwards, my son (who had asked them to pray and led the prayer), gently wiped the tears from my friend’s face.
In the weeks and months that followed, they attended his memorial and helped with dogsitting, meals, etc. A friendship between my kids and my friend organically grew out of a situation no one how to handle.
So when I ran into her at the post office this week, and she asked for my son’s address, it deeply touched me because this time she wants to encourage him.
There is a bond between them that formed from brokenness.
We all waded in unfamiliar waters with this tragedy, and none of us acted like we knew what we were doing. My kids’ genuine humility and hurt for this family was a blessing, and now she wants to bless him back as he lives away from home for the first time.
Her thoughtfulness is powerful. Sacrificial. Healing…for everyone.
I didn’t know my friend well before this event. We were casual acquaintances. Now, there is a cord that cannot be broken, a cord that holds broken people together.
Another dear friend of mine also asked me recently for his address. I was overwhelmed and deeply touched when she did. In fact, when I read her Facebook message I burst into tears–not because of how much I miss my boy, but because of how much she misses hers.
Two years ago, six weeks into her youngest son’s freshmen year of college, he died in a tragic accident. Our entire church deeply mourned for this precious family.
My friend is one of the kindest, sweetest people you’ll ever know. She is always giving and doing for others.
I have thought of her often during this new season of school and can only imagine how hard it must be to see another year begin. My heart stays broken for her.
She and her husband have done many wonderful things to honor their son’s life. It’s been amazing to watch them continue his legacy of faith and friendship.
But mother to mother, I don’t know how she does it. By the grace of God she gets up every day and chooses to walk toward the light and not toward the dark (as one friend said).
Every day she chooses life and I stand in awe of her strength.
Knowing what a giving, tenderhearted person she is, this would be the time she would be sending a care package to her own son. From one care-package sender to another, this thought brings me to tears.
The fact that she remembered my son, as she remembers hers, floods my heart with emotions I don’t know how to process. To say I feel blessed is an understatement. To say I am thankful and grateful isn’t enough.
This beautiful soul, who has grieved in a way that only one can who walks the road of losing a child, has chosen to gather her grief in her arms and turn it into a blessing for someone else.
She is a living testimony of God’s love for this world.
Our family is very blessed that we have family and friends who want to encourage our son while he is away at college. Each and every person holds a special place in our hearts.
But for these two women, who have chosen to give out of their grief, pain and loss, I have no words.
These women come from the most broken of places, yet have determined in their hearts to allow God to make something beautiful out of it.
They have no idea that they also help fill a huge hole in this mama’s heart. Both of my parents are deceased and aren’t here to walk this new season of life with our family–to give our son an atta-boy! in his new journey or us a hug as we adapt to his absence at home.
I highly admire and respect these amazing women. Their joy is contagious in a home that misses our guy very much. They are an inspiration.
Our son may be the one who receives the card or package, but it is all of us who are healed a little bit more by their kindness. ❤
We took our firstborn to college yesterday. This is a first for our family, so we’re not sure what to expect, feel or think.
Leading up to taking him, I was busy helping tie up loose ends at home. He and I shopped for dorm items. My husband and I went over a myriad of business details relating to school and before we knew it, it was the night before he was supposed to leave.
That’s when it hit me–like a brick. Nausea overcame me.
No matter how many Tums I chewed, Prilosec pills I swallowed, or Saltine crackers I munched on, nothing worked.
After mindlessly chomping my way through an entire sleeve of crackers, I realized something…this felt familiar.
I had horrendous morning sickness when I was pregnant with our son. Just ask my husband.
It took literally hours for me to be able to get out of bed each day. He had to leave a cooler with orange juice and grapes by my side of the bed. It was all I could possibly tolerate in the beginning.
He could not use the oven or the microwave, and anything he ate had to be consumed outside. One whiff of any food and there I went running to the bathroom, again.
Brushing my teeth made me gag.
I laid in bed most of the first three months, getting up only to throw up or dry heave over the toilet.
At eight weeks, I caught a stomach bug on top of the morning sickness. Great.
This landed me in the hospital.
The upside? I got to see our boy way before I normally would have as they ordered a sonogram to make sure he was okay despite how sick I was.
Oh my goodness! What a treat! He was the cutest little human I’d ever laid my eyes on. Look at this lil’ pumpkin! Eight weeks!!
After the hospital escapade, I was back to waffling between throwing up, eating nothing and craving McDonald’s filet-o-fish sandwiches, Boston Market’s creamed spinach, Captain Crunch, Lucky Charms and cherry Now & Laters.
I joke that I can’t believe he wasn’t born with two heads with that meal line-up. :O
The gnawing nausea of morning sickness is like nothing else in the world. My grandmother used to say, “It’s a sick, sick.”
She was right.
With each doctor’s visit during those months, I only lost weight. I remember crying in the mirror, longing to have a baby bump.
But, I kept pushing through the tears and weakness, knowing it was all completely worth it because soon I was going to get to hold my little baby boy.
Two days ago, when the nausea began I realized that what I was feeling was so much like when I was pregnant. But this time, it was mourning sickness.
Even though I thought I had handled it pretty well up to this point, our bodies can’t lie. Stress, pain and grieving find their way out, no matter how hard our minds try to suppress the weight of reality.
When I was pregnant, and the first contractions came, I put on make up, double-checked my hospital bag and celebrated the impending excitement with my husband.
After 56 hours of grueling labor (28 hours when contractions were 5 minutes apart and 28 hours of them 2 minutes apart), my husband grabbed the hospital bag and ran every red light to get me there in time.
On the way I thought to myself, “It feels like we’re packing for a trip from which we’ll never return.”
I was right. Parenthood has a one-way ticket. Once a parent, always a parent, no matter our children’s ages or circumstance.
As we loaded up our van with our son’s college things, I recalled the same thought, “We’re packing again, but this time it is a return trip–without him.”
It’s not a forever goodbye, Lord willing, but goodbye to a season of parenting. He’s still our son, but no longer a child.
There is nothing that really prepares a parent for this experience. Whether it’s college, the military, a gap year or the workforce, change closes the chapter on all we new as normal.
I felt like I was going to throw up all the way to the school. However, once we arrived adrenaline coursed my veins and I was in full business mode.
Much like showtime for giving birth, a second wind rushes in and we moms do what we have to do to survive.
I am a relentless nester, so I was in the zone. I didn’t want to overstep my role and set up his room for him, but I wanted to help a guy who was a bit overwhelmed himself.
I parked myself at his closet in the corner and hung up all his clothes. That was a great place to settle. I wasn’t thinking for him or making dorm decisions for him, but I was indeed helping him – and that made me feel good and connected and productive.
His dad and he wrestled with all of the computer technical stuff, of which I was very fine to not get involved.
No matter how many times we thought through the packing list, cross-referencing the school’s list with stores’ lists, he was still short a few necessities so off we flew to the closest store. We were on a time schedule to get our daughter to work back home. Stressful!
I was not prepared for the hoards of people at this store! It made Black Friday look like a regular old Tuesday morning. Never have I seen a store so ransacked, nearly looted. There was not a pair of nail clippers to be found. Trust me–I looked.
And check out the checkout line–all for college shopping, judging by the cartloads. This is only a third of it!!
Tick toc! Thank goodness our youngest stood in line while we flew through the store like we were on a game show racing the clock to find a number of disjointed items in the least amount of time.
Walking into the bright sunlight in the parking lot, the adrenaline that had peaked in me while in the store crashed in me like a sugar-buzzed child riding home from the circus.
The nausea returned in full force because I knew the next item on the to-do list was…to say goodbye.
We were in a hurry to get back home, but my heart so badly wanted to stay, just a little longer.
Anyone need to go to the bathroom? Thirsty? Hungry? All of the well-worn procrastinations of childhood were now full throttle in me.
Now that our son is an adult, I can say that he is one of my best friends. It was ripping my heart out to think of leaving him.
We unpacked the last of the bags and he walked me back to the van to give everyone one last hug.
Like being pregnant, we had planned and prepared his whole life for this moment. The moment when new plans and dreams and passions would give birth to a bright future full of adventure, hard work and great memories waiting to be made.
He couldn’t stay inside me forever, nor could the dreams he has be fulfilled if he stayed home.
I know this in my head, but tell that to my heart.
And then the day was done. He was unpacked. Our job was complete.
I pulled him close, like when he was born, and held him in my arms and whispered to him how much I love him.
I looked him in the eyes and told him how proud I am of him, all the while my gut is twisting inside me knowing I’ll have to face his empty bedroom and chair at the table.
The rest of us piled into the van, sans our oldest. He stood on the sidewalk, eyes filling with tears as he tried to manage a smile to make us feel better.
It just didn’t feel right. My whole motherhood I’ve always made sure our children were safe, knowing at all times where they were.
Now I’m just going to leave him on the sidewalk? It felt like I was committing treason against his heart.
It felt the same as the first day I dropped him off at preschool. He was crying for me while the teachers smiled and reassured me he’d be fine.
They told me that, for his good, I needed to just walk away, and that the longer I stood there the worse it would be for him.
I remembered those words as I fastened my seat belt, not wanting to leave, yet feeling I needed to go, for his sake.
I plastered on a wide smile, choking on the lump welling up in my throat. I could hardly breathe, but had to push through the tears and weakness of heart so I could let my baby boy go.
The smile stayed frozen on my face as we cheered for him out the windows, waving all the way down the street.
He stood in the middle of the street, watching us drive away until he could see us no more.
That plastered smile quickly faded when my husband immediately broke into an ugly cry. His tears were contagious, and as we drove onto the highway we just cried and cried.
The hole in this cloud on the way home reminded me of the hole I feel in my heart.
When we went to the hospital all those years ago, it was my journey as a mother that was beginning. My bag was packed and I was ready for a one-way road into motherhood, just as my husband was for fatherhood.
Yesterday, it is our son’s journey that is beginning. His bags were packed and he is ready for his one-way ticket to the plans God has for him.
It was a silent ride home.
Today, I awoke praying for him. I spent two hours waking up and going back to sleep, each time praying for him with all of my heart. Praying that God would show Himself in a personal way to my boy who feels very alone among thousands of people.
We hardly ever miss church, but I couldn’t do it today. I couldn’t shower, get ready and absorb a sermon and talk to people. Today, I needed solitude. And that’s okay.
I ventured out to Target, again, and in doing so I accidentally left my returns at home, forgot the shopping list in the van, and left the store without the very thing I went to get – printed photos I spent hours compiling for our boy. And that’s okay.
Things are not normal today.
We are exhausted from all the activity and needed a day to rebound. And that’s okay.
I put on my walking clothes when I got up and still haven’t walked. I just don’t have it in me today. And that’s okay.
My husband has cried off and on throughout the day. Not me. My tears will come when the last of the adrenaline wears off and I’m setting a table for four beloveds instead of five; when my other two teens come home and tell me how their days were and he doesn’t come home; when I watch our dog wait for him by the back door.
For now, I’ve channeled the last bit of emotional energy left in me into beginning a care package for our boy. It’s one way I feel like I’m still involved in this new chapter of his life.
It seems like just yesterday we were buckling him into his infant car seat. However, yesterday we were strapping down all of his belongings to a trailer.
We were just breaking in a new crib, trying to figure out how it worked. We were trying to find wi-fi and ether net cables and shuttled routes.
I was hanging his matching Gymboree baby outfits in his baby wardrobe. I was hanging his adult medium, trendy button-downs and pants in a rented old closet with a lock.
We were finishing reading “What to expect when you’re expecting” and beginning to read, “What to expect the first year.” We were reading, “Welcome college parents” and “Navigating the first year of college.”
We were taking a ton of photographs of him sleeping and us holding him in his nursery. We were taking photographs of him setting up his stuff and with his new roommate in their dorm room.
We were calling family to tell them how he was settling in. I was texting family and friends telling them how he was settling in.
We had a baby monitor on the nightstand. We have our cell phones on our nightstand, just for him–just in case.
We were crying tears of joy that this little guy was ours to have and hold forever. We are crying tears of thankfulness for the last 19 years, knowing now he was never ours to keep, rather God has big plans for him and it’s time to share him with the world.
We were praying blessings over his baby days. We are praying blessings over all of his days to come.
He’ll be fine. Not sure about me for a while.
Morning sickness was hard, but I knew it was just for a season.
Mourning sickness is hard because I know this is the beginning of the rest of his life.
I am looking forward to all of the ways in which our family will grow through this change. But for today, no Saltines, Tums or Prilosec will help this mama’s heart. There is grieving to do. And that’s okay because I have the privilege of watching him become the man he was born to be.
In two days our firstborn will be college-bound. In the midst of a busy summer, he and I have had to carve out intentional time to shop for dorm supplies, of which I know nothing about.
My husband and I got married young, real young. I was 19. He was 23. We were married on spring break and bought our first home when I was 21. That tiny foreclosure was the perfect place to learn power tools, how to be married students, and realize my own independence.
This dorm thing is new to me. I have fought the urge to over buy. Our son doesn’t want any bells and whistles, so when the school’s packing list mentioned house plants – well, he and I laughed out loud at that one.
He can certainly prepare for college on his own, but for me it’s extra time I get to spend with just him whether we’re in Target, Wal-Mart or beyond. We’ve shared laughs and memories on these shopping escapades that I wouldn’t trade for the world.
I’ll do anything to steal time away with my kids.
Minus a couple of technical items, like finding the dreaded required calculator, he’s all set.
Today, however, it hit me. He’s leaving home.
Over the last few weeks I’ve washed his two plastic cups, cheap silverware and his one glass bowl for microwaving and packed them in his plastic college tub. I’ve also washed his sheets and towels and repacked them with the small arsenal of dorm items huddled in the family room.
As I went to tuck the crisp, white sheets in the bag with the other bedding, I noticed the pillowcases were wrinkled beyond repair from the dryer.
The looked like giant, used handkerchiefs.
I tried flattening them with my hands but it was no use.
I tried to just let it go, but I couldn’t. Before I knew it I was setting up our creaky ironing board and plugging in the iron.
hate loathe abhor ironing and avoid it at all costs, ask anyone who knows me – especially my family.
I’m neither patient enough nor good enough at it. For me, I’ve solved this problem by not owning anything that needs to be ironed.
So why on earth would I tackle horrendously wrinkled pillowcases that a steamroller couldn’t fix?
It’s my way of nesting a home I won’t live in for a boy I love with all my heart.
As the iron whistled and blew steam I thought of my firstborn lying down after a long day in a different state and resting his head on these pillowcases.
The same head that I oohed over in his sonogram when I was only 8 weeks pregnant. He had the cutest tiny bobble head with little nubs for arms and legs, but there he was, my baby.
The same head I cradled in the palm of my hand when he was born; that I watched my husband cradle as he swayed side-to-side in the hospital room, singing our baby boy to sleep.
The same head that turned away from baby food he refused to eat, donned silly Halloween costumes and proudly displayed lost baby teeth.
The same head that I held my breath over as he tumbled headlong into the opposing football player’s helmet in the game; that ducked and weaved through soccer players, using his head to launch the ball to his teammates; and that poured over the keys of the piano late into the night.
The same head that suffered a major concussion in Africa on mission and endured an injury at school that could have killed him. The same head I watched proudly drive away with his brand new license.
The same head that towered above the voting booth at his first election. Talk about making a mama proud!
I’ve watched my boy become a man and have learned a lot over the years about when to hold on and when to let go. Knowing time is short, I’ve not taken the days with my son for granted. I’ve counted each and every blessing of raising him.
And after a grueling senior year, we were both so happy to have it over with I shed no tears at graduation.
It’s time to let him fly.
Yes, the same little pumpkin that couldn’t reach the faucet on his own has grown into a tall body that stoops to hug me. As he rests his head on my shoulder, I am taken back to the days of rocking him to sleep in my arms. His long arms now wrap around me and I melt.
He has so many gifts, talents as strengths (most of which he doesn’t even see in himself, yet). I am thrilled he gets to enter this new phase of self-discovery.
But how I will miss him.
Fully able to fend for himself, I will miss kissing that sweet head goodnight.
Mothers grow and grieve in their own way. I never thought I’d feel so many mixed emotions about him leaving, nor find myself looking at him, holding his hand and leaning my head on his shoulder so much as I have this summer.
For me, a mom with a grateful, grieving heart, ironing the pillowcases that will soften his sleep is my way of wishing him sweet dreams – not only for a good night’s sleep, but as he works hard to make those dreams a reality.
And in his pursuit of this crazy thing we call life, I’ll be right here waiting to feel his precious head rest on my shoulders and tell him once again, You can grow up, but please don’t outgrow your mama.