Friday, October 21, 2016

I'm Right Here

Dear Allison,

True confession: I have been writing this letter in my heart for the past month. Yes, it was a month ago today that we moved you into your dorm. I didn’t really think about that until just now, but somehow it seems appropriate that today is the day I feel ready to move these words from my heart to paper. I wanted to wait for awhile – I wanted to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we were both doing okay before I emoted about the process of letting go.

You are thriving – your texts and posts exude joy and life and scream, “I am where I am supposed to be!” This does not surprise me. We knew from the first day we visited that Seattle Pacific University had a special connection to your dreams and goals. What does surprise me, a little bit, is that I am doing okay, too. I’m not ready to say I’m thriving yet – at least not to the amazing degree that you are – but I am finding the courage and curiosity to ask myself what this next stage of my life is going to be about. You see, my definition of thriving for the past 18 years has kind of revolved around being your Mom. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. And then, it changes. That’s the way it’s supposed to be too. The thing is, nobody quite prepares for you that change. But here we are, a month later, and I am asking myself what thriving will look like for me in this next season. And I am still breathing and I am really, surprisingly, okay. Your Dad and I (and Buster!) are finding a new rhythm to life as the season changes. We think of you every minute but it is with joy and anticipation and excitement, knowing that things are exactly as they are supposed to be.

Another true confession: the last few nights before you moved in to your dorm, I did not sleep well at all. I woke up in the very early hours and laid there, listening to you breathe. I know that might sound creepy, but Moms do this all the time. Any Mom out there will back me on this one. I thought about how fast the time had gone. I even prayed for a few fleeting moments that God would actually slow time down for our last few days together. I know better than to pray this --- I contemplated praying it before, at the beginning of your senior year, when I realized how many “lasts” were ahead of us. I knew, however, that God seldom answers this kind of prayer. I also knew that any prayer I prayed to this effect ("Please make the clock move slower") would be immediately counteracted by the prayers you were praying for that same period of time to go by quickly. So instead of praying that time would go slowly, I asked God to help me savor those “last” moments. He did that throughout your senior year, and He was faithful to do it again on our trip.

You will never know how much those days meant to me on the way up to Seattle: the meaningful conversations, the reminiscing, the comfortable silences. I love that we went to the zoo and the giant bookstore, that we got to see a few of your friends at their colleges, and that I was there when you discovered Dutch Bros. coffee. And I love that God gave me a few snapshots along the way to keep forever in my mind and heart . . .

The first specific snapshot was Monday morning, our day in Portland. Driving around in the city was so crazy and so I dropped you off in a random spot while I went to park the car. (By the way, I still stand by my statement that I prefer places where each destination has its OWN parking lot.) It took a few minutes for me to find a parking garage and then to get to the downtown area.  I spotted you from behind, a half of a block ahead of me, just as my phone rang and you asked, “Mom, where are you?”
“Look behind you. I’m right here.”
A seemingly random moment. We went on about our sightseeing.

A few days later, we are at the new student convocation. You moved in to your dorm the day before. This evening is when we will say our goodbyes. We are listening to the president of the university talk about what amazing adventures lie ahead of you. At the same time, he reassures parents about the loving community of faculty and staff that waits to envelop our children into their care. You reach over and take my hand. It is the most precious, meaningful moment of my entire life. I know in a few short minutes they are going to ask you to come forward and be received into their community. I will be asked to let go of your hand and somehow find a way to be okay. I know you will be okay. But will I?

My mind swirls with memories of other times I have held your hand and then had to let go. The day you confidently sauntered off to Kindergarten, barely looking back at me. The evening when I dropped you off at a huge church event – you were eight or nine years old and you didn’t know a soul there. I asked if you wanted me to stay with you for a little bit, and you dropped my hand and skipped off, looking over your shoulder as you reassured me, “Don’t worry, Mom. I’ll find a friend.”  And you did.

Now we’re here in this gymnasium amidst students and families and professors in academic garb. You are ready to venture off in to your new life. And God is asking me to let go of your hand one more time and entrust you into this community, these people who are promising to do so much more than educate you. As hard as it is, I know that it is right. So right. And every little letting-go that led to this moment has prepared both of us. (For the record, I'm pretty dang proud of myself for not clinging to your hand with all of my might while sobbing "Don't go!" I did it! I let go and I didn't even ugly-cry!)

As I release your hand, God reminds me of that moment in Portland a few days earlier when you asked where I was and I said “I’m right behind you.” He reminds me that this is the end of a season, but not the end of being your Mom. For the rest of your life, I will be taking your hand when you need me to, and letting it go when you need me to. I will be walking beside you some of the time, and walking behind you at others, always gently reminding you, “I’m right here. Keep going.”

Driving away from Seattle was the most difficult thing I have ever done. Don’t get me wrong: I have had more difficult things HAPPEN to me, but in terms of things I have physically had to do, that southward drive home takes the cake. I had to keep literally telling myself out loud: “You can’t stay here. You can’t take her home with you. You have only one choice: keep driving.”

So I kept driving, and I kept trusting. A Danny Gokey song came on the radio (yes, I was listening to my “Jesus station”) and the lyrics said:  

“Beginning. Just let that word wash over you. It’s alright now. Love’s healing hands have pulled you through. So get back up, take step one . . . Cause your story’s far from over and your journey’s just begun.” (Tell Your Heart To Bear Again, Danny Gokey)

How faithful of God to remind me that we both have new journeys ahead of us. I have no idea what my new journey holds for me. But I do know this: no matter what else comes my way, a HUGE part of my life will always be being “right here” for you, whatever that means.

Thank you for this amazing adventure. Thank you for sharing all of your joy and excitement with me. (By the way, I know as much as you love it, it will not always be perfect, so it’s okay when you need to gripe too.) Thank you for trusting me to be okay when you went away, and thank you for understanding when it made me a little bit sad.

You are finding what it is that makes you come alive (Howard Thurman), and I am so grateful to be a part of that.

Look behind you. I’m right here. I always will be.