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Many of these parents have been discussing how hard it is to see all the back-to-school posts on Facebook this week. And it's not so much that they begrudge other families recording these milestones on social media ... most of them acknowledge that they truly are happy these families have not had to experience the loss of a child.
No, rather it's the sorrow that so many parents describe as they drop their child off for kindergarten, middle school, high school, college, you-fill-in-the-blank. The sadness they express about the fact that their child is growing up. The tears they shed because their baby is getting so old.
It's a little hard for a parent who will never get to hug their child again here on earth to feel much sympathy for a parent who is tearfully hugging their child good-bye until 3:30 that afternoon or until Christmas break. My purpose in sharing this blog post is not to be critical of these folks ... I'm sure I did the very same thing myself until Hannah's homegoing changed my perspective. Rather, I just want to remind all of us not to waste a moment of our children's lives being sad that they are growing up, but to celebrate those milestones with them! Every moment we have with our children is a gift from God and should be treasured.
So, here's what I wrote the week that Hannah should have started college ...
I love school supplies. There's something about brand new, never-written-in notebooks, clean loose leaf paper wrapped in plastic, binders with tabbed dividers, "bouquets of newly sharpened pencils" (one of my favorite lines from "You've Got Mail"), and neat stacks of pristine pocket folders that I just like. Every new school year is a blank slate; a fresh start. There are no crayons or safety scissors on our list this year...there haven't been for many years now...instead, we have things like protractors and compasses. And if I can't help Bethany with her geometry homework this year (which is highly likely)...no worries; her teacher does podcasts explaining the difficult problems! Hopefully, she can figure out how to watch them, because I probably won't be able to help her with that either.
Hannah shared my affinity for school supplies. She always wanted to shop for them as early as possible for the best selection, and the second we got home with them, she would get busy. She'd separate them all by class, then painstakingly label each item with her name, her teacher's name, the class title, etc. The loose leaf paper would go into the binders, and dividers would be put into place. Then she'd place everything in a neat stack, largest items on the bottom, smallest on the top. She would have her schedule, locker number, and combination all memorized within five minutes of receiving it. The girl just loved school! On the other hand, I won't even comment about what Bethany's heap of school supplies looks like on the kitchen table right now!
This summer, instead of buying school supplies for Hannah, we would have been buying items to furnish her college dorm room. We would have been moving her into her dorm at Ouachita Baptist University this Saturday. It's hard for me to even imagine what that would be like. I think she would have been really nervous...before she got sick, she was easily freaked out by change...but she would have been excited, too. And I wonder how I would feel.
I see lots of moms on Facebook lamenting the fact that their kids are starting college this fall, and talking about how sad they are going to be that they won't be living at home. I suppose I might feel that way too, if we had not the experience we had. But now, I really want to comment on all those posts, "Don't be sad! Be happy...be thrilled...that your child is moving on to the next step in life. You can talk to them every day on the phone. They will come home to visit on the weekends. Don't waste a moment of precious time being sad that your child is growing up. Enjoy every second of it!!"
Last night, I brought Bethany to open house at her school. I barely even remember open house last year...I was just trying to survive the night. The emotion was still so raw at that point, and it was excruciatingly difficult to be there among all of Hannah's classmates as they were starting their senior year. This year was better, but still difficult, just in a different way. Hannah was diagnosed with cancer during her sophomore year of high school...and Bethany will be starting her sophomore year tomorrow. She has the exact same slate of teachers that Hannah had in the tenth grade. So, as we went around from room to room last night, visiting with all of those teachers, it was just kind of surreal. They are wonderful teachers, and I'm so glad they will all be teaching Bethany this year, but I'm sure that it will feel kind of strange to them as well.
I'm so thankful for Heaven. I'm so thankful that there is so much more to look forward to than a dorm room at OBU. And I'm so thankful for John 16:22..."Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy." No one will take away your joy...I love that!!