I was completely surprised by the tears. I was just driving along listening to the radio and thinking about what I had to do this week, and there they were streaming down my cheeks. I don’t know, maybe I thought it would get easier to send children out into the world.
If you’ve had a child leave home then you might know this feeling. I’m talking about complete happiness and joy that he’s an independent, intelligent, capable human who is ready to go out into the world to do big things, and complete despair that he won’t be at the dinner table, won’t be sitting next to me at church, and won’t be calling to say he arrived at practice safely. I wouldn’t want him not to go, and I’m not ready for him to go.
Next week at this time he’ll be far away. We’ve been told that once he arrives at his destination, he’ll be able to make one call to let us know his address, (Oh my gosh! What if I’m in the shower? What if I’m on one of the dirt roads with no cell signal?) and then it will be weeks before we talk again. Weeks of knowing he’s going through some difficult stuff. There they go again, streaming down my cheeks. Damn tears. Damn goodbyes.
Oh, Robby. I will miss you so much.
You were born fiery and spirited. Your strength and your determination are not things I could have taught you: they are gifts you possess. Gifts that heroes possess. I haven’t always considered your fire and your spirit as a gift. Some days I thought they might just kill me. As you’ve grown into a man, though, I’ve come to see that they truly are gifts, and as your mom I have been uniquely blessed to watch these gifts develop in you day by day, year after year, and I wouldn’t want you to be a single hair different.
I’m so thankful that you’ve always known and felt God’s love. I remember back when you were about three years old, we were having lunch at a restaurant after church with some friends and all of a sudden you stood up on a chair and pointed to the table of strangers beside us and you yelled, “God loves YOU!” Then you turned to another table and pointed and yelled, “God loves YOU!” And “God loves YOU!” to the elderly man two tables away. You weren’t trying to be funny or silly. You were so impassioned. And you were so right. When it gets tough, and it will, it definitely will, remember that God loves YOU. He won’t make it easier, because you’ve chosen a path that is extremely difficult, and that difficulty will make you stronger; He won’t cheat you of developing that strength, but He’ll be there with you during all the hard stuff. Let him be your rock.
I’m going to miss your presence so much. I can sit next to you in complete silence feeling that words aren’t even necessary. You’ve never been one to chatter away or make small talk: you don’t waste words or sentiments. I remember when you stood up at Caroline’s wedding rehearsal and poured out your heart for your beloved sister. Your love was so pure and so loyal that it pierced deeper than most people were ready for. I’ve never seen so many grown men sob and ugly cry! I am so thankful that there’s nothing wishy-washy about you. You’ve taught me so much about parenting and about loving. You’ve taught me how to be simultaneously tough and tender. You’ve taught me that the tenderness comes from a place of great strength. I pray as you go out into the world that you stay tough because you’re going to need to be strong, and that you always protect that tender place in your heart because you’re going to need be even stronger.
Every single day, I hope you hear my voice in your head telling you how proud I am of you. I’m not just proud of all the work you’ve done to prepare for your future, but I’m proud of who you are. I’m so proud that you are the kind of man who wants to serve God and this great country. I hope you know that I’ll be praying for you throughout all the days ahead. I’ll probably cry some more, and I’m sure I’ll worry some, but I know you, and I know what you’re capable of doing, and I’ll try to hear your sweet toddler voice in my head saying, “God loves YOU!” and your grown-up voice saying, “I love you, Mom. Don’t worry, I’ve got this,” and again, as I’ve done all your life, I’m going to place you in the hands of Christ who is more capable than any other to guide you and to keep you.