Saturday, January 12, 2013

Letting Go (to College)

My daughter, Amelia, attends a private Christian college in Arkansas. We live in Delaware. At the time of this writing she is beginning the second semester of her Junior year and you'd think by now that I would be used to "letting go". I am not.

The first time we left her at college my husband was not quite prepared for the outpouring of, well, just the outpouring. We had a plan, you see, for the separation. Yes, there was a plan. The plan was supposed to afford me the opportunity to cut the umbilical cord apron strings less painfully than if we left her quickly. But even my best laid plans failed to predict all the variables.

We have some dear friends who live in the same town where Amelia attends college who generously allowed us to stay with them for a week while we got her all settled into her dorm. We had even sent some of her things ahead of time to their house so that we did not have to rent a U-Haul. Why do kids need so much more stuff these days to start college? I don't recall having half that amount when my parents dropped me at the curb. But I digress... and sound old... so I'll move along with the story.

After we unloaded all of the belongings that we brought with us and had sent ahead of time, we left her to unpack and put things to rights. We then went back to our friends' house and enjoyed visiting with them and waiting for her to let us know if she needed anything. Over the next couple days we made approximately 10 trips to Wal-mart, 5 visits to her room "just to see how it was coming along" and 2 trips to Frozen D's. There was a dinner with roommate's family thrown in the mix as well.

The final goodbye took place on the afternoon before the morning we were to head home. Daddy was stoic. Mama was shedding an appropriate number of tears. Amelia was perfectly fine. Extra tight hugs all around. I love yous and I'll miss yous were said. It was a normal scene that played out a couple thousand times on that very same campus on that very same weekend. Stewart and I buckled up and as we drove away I looked in the mirror, back at my baby girl, and saw her walking in the opposite direction.  In my imagination I witnessed her sprout wings.

Again, we went back to our friends' house after driving around for a few extra minutes to compose ourselves. In their wisdom, whether consciously planned or not, I did not ask, they provided an evening of easy fellowship and lighthearted competition that distracted us from our separation anxiety. Things went very, very well. All according to plan, right? Only so far.

I went to bed that night thinking "Not bad. Not bad at all." I woke up in the morning thinking "I'm leaving my baby!!!!!!" and it went downhill from there. I readied myself with as much courage as I could. I didn't want our friends to think I was ungrateful for their hospitality but I'm pretty sure they sensed my tension. The suitcases were loaded up and we said our goodbyes to our hosts. As the last words of "safe travels" and such were spoken, I could not hold myself together for one more second. My hand went to my throat as tears sprang from my eyes with a force that I was unaware was possible. What occurred next is hazy but there I was, buckled up again and we were headed out the driveway.

I cried and sobbed and groaned my way out of Arkansas and much of the way across Tennessee. Falling asleep was my only relief but then we'd stop somewhere and the tears would start afresh as I would step into the car and see that the back seat was empty. It. Was. Awful. And it was as it should have been. Yes. Separation from loved ones is designed to hurt.

Designed? Yep. Designed. Whether through death or by choice, separation is designed to hurt. I think of it as a revelation of Mercy, actually. How can the pain of separation be merciful? Because that pain is of greater value and has greater purpose than for the here and now. It minutely foreshadows the pain that we will feel if we are eternally separated from God. Think about it. If you are a Bible believer, which I am, you know that God created us to be in relationship with Him. He longs to be in relation with us so deeply that He anticipated and implemented a plan to span eternity that could ensure an everlasting relationship with Him.

No relationship ever in the history of ever has not required sacrifice. The healthiest of relationships are sacrificial on both sides. So God sacrificed. He sacrificed first and He sacrificed big. Now I don't pretend to understand the entirety of the Triune God... Father, Son, and Holy Spirit... but I do know that it was with great sorrow that the Father sacrificed the Son even though They would only be parted for a short while. And now it is up to me to search out the sacrifice required on my part. I think it can be summed up in one word... Self.

So despite whatever separation comes here and now, whatever level of pain that causes it or is caused by it, I look to the Sacrifice that redeems it-- redeems what is separated and broken.

This week it fell to me to take Amelia to the airport at the end of her Christmas break. I've never done that. Her Daddy always does that. It is just easier for me that way. What a coward I am!! Since I could not escape the task, I dealt with it the best way I knew how... humor and brevity. We'll get to the humor momentarily. Brevity was my closest ally at the airport. Once she was checked in we sat for about 5 minutes and then I knew it was time for me to go. I spoke a blessing to her, kissed her quickly and headed out the door.

Now for the humor...

Here is my baby girl all packed and ready to go. Doesn't she look sickeningly pleased to be headed out the door?

Let's take a closer look at my point of view... 
at the kitchen door.

getting into the car.

getting out of the car at the airport.

No, letting go does not get any easier but I deal with it differently than I did at first. I miss her terribly, especially the laughing we do. Unfortunately for the rest of the family, we have a similar silly humor that runs amok when we are together. I can't think of a single thing that I would willingly choose that would cause me to miss our reunion at the end of the semester. But the real question is... Will I willfully choose the one thing that will cause me to miss THE reunion with my Creator?


  1. Joanne, I read most of your post through misty-eyes. In fact, I had to quit reading for a bit. When Alan and I dropped Nathan off at college, it was the first time he had ever seen me cry. I made it through the bringing things into the dorm and carrying him out for dinner. But, I was a stressed out wreck the whole time. But, when we began walking him back to the dorm so we could drive off and leave my first born, I began getting teary eyed. 5 minutes later I was sobbing like a baby right in front of him. He didn't know what to do. Finally, he just hugged me. He hugged me for 2-3 minutes. I thought my world was ending. Even though it's been 3 years, he still hugs me like that when he heads back to school. I think we bonded a bit more that day. P.S. I begged Alan half the way back home that day to turn around and go back and get him. :) I loved the pictures you posted!

    1. Oh, Lisa! I am so glad to be walking this journey at the same time as you. One of my dearest friends is preparing to go through the very same thing and I want to remember how deeply it hurt, the physical pain, so that I can be there for her, too. We laughed so hard about those pictures!!!!