Bittersweet Endings and Beginnings

The tears catch me by surprise. Three times in the last two days. Driving home from Costco the old song, “A Thousand Miles,” came on the radio. I usually blast it. This time I sang with tears rolling down my face.

I would walk a thousand miles just to see him. Just to hold him.

Jonathan is receiving news now almost daily from colleges he’s been accepted to. One school back east has invited him to come visit next month. I googled the distance from our home to the campus.

2667 miles.

What a bittersweet mixture of emotions.

My mother’s heart is thrilled with the possibilities but breaks with the inevitable taking place in just a few short months.

He won’t be here for dinner anymore.

I won’t find him asleep on the big chair in our living room with his six-foot frame twisted in every imaginable combination.

His shoes and books and papers will fill another place that isn’t our living room, dining room and entry way.

The piano will sit silent.

Really the bottom line is…

I will miss him.

The bittersweet ending and beginnings started long, long ago. The week before his first day of kindergarten I lay in bed with silent tears flowing out of my eyes, into my ears. Two nights ago the same bed, and the same bittersweet tears. The sweetness both times comes from knowing he is ready. It’s good and right. It’s the next step. When my friend, Faye’s, oldest went off to college six years ago I wept. Jonathan was still in elementary school, but I knew the day would come when it would be his turn.

And now it is here. This week with news from the colleges it’s hitting me–it’s really here.

After 23 years in college ministry we know hundreds of campus staff workers across the country. But we don’t personally know the staff at that campus back east. Now I understand in an experiential way the significance of having staff workers in different parachurch ministries on college campuses. And I have a new appreciation for all the thousands of churches and individuals that give financially to those campus ministers. For so long we were on the receiving end of those freshman faces. Now we are the ones praying, letting go, entrusting to others our most precious ones.

The ones we would walk a thousand miles to see.

I’m trying to implement some lessons I’ve learned about grief. I’m trying to not push down my sad feelings, but actually just let them be. So I’m letting the tears flow when those bittersweet feelings surface.

Now three times has turned to four.