Guest post today from my friend and fellow writer Mindy Shannon Phelps.
A journalist by training, Mindy is a project management and communications specialist.
How remarkably we humans are made, that once a child reaches a certain age, she is able to say goodbye to all that is known and familiar to her – parents, mother, father, sister, cousin, close friends – and her bedroom, her house, the only home she has ever known –and, just, move on.
Remarkable that the human child willingly and even longingly leaves the familiar – the scents, the sounds, the comforts – 19 years of cuddling and coddling – pancakes for breakfast and tea in bed – I will admit the first 12 years were more fun for both of us than the next seven – but she is just so ready to be an adult daughter and I can’t see beyond her beautiful little hands and sweet, expressive, perfect face. She will always be my little Liz. My baby.
I had just said goodbye to Lizzie. I’d hoped it would be a warmer parting, even though she was eager to get to her dormitory and the small space we created together for her yesterday and just settle in. But, at the end, she seemed tired and ill at ease from the days we had spent together. Uncomfortable, and in need of privacy. I noticed that she had not read her Bible or written in her journal – had only captured her thoughts and emotions in the emails she had written and sent each evening to people she did not identify for me.
It’s hard to read Liz – often difficult clearing the fog off the hard glass she surrounds herself with. Her glass is not brittle but it is breakable and I try not to shatter the shield when she has it up and in place. It is her safe enclosure and there is no need to breach it.
We had been traveling together for three days, from Kentucky to Colorado in her tiny Volkswagen Beetle. Our travels were glorious—the billboard-sized copy of Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” in the middle of a Kansas wheat field, the vivid blue September skies and the rain we could see a hundred miles away that never touched us. So peaceful and fun and adventurous, even blessed.
And now, the end.
Liz would keep her car at the school where she would begin training as a missionary with an international NGO. I would fly home after helping her settle in.
A quick ride to the airport and, suddenly, Lizzie seems as if she doesn’t want me to go. She wants to park and come in with me. I think this is what she wants to do, but, again, her glass is up and I can only peer in, bringing my nose and eyes and face up to the enclosure, trying not to cloud the view with a sudden exhalation.
I decide a quick goodbye is for the best because my prayer this morning had been for a bit of grace and a letting go with joy. This is what I’m supposed to do, I think.
So I quickly hug her and say too loudly, “I’ll call you when I get home.” “Yes, do that,” she replies.
And I turn and go, denying Liz the tears and sorrow of saying goodbye – an emotional farewell we might have shared but did not. It’s for the best, I think.
I turn and walk a few steps and begin weeping as I enter the terminal.
I still weep when I think about the time I let Lizzie go.
(Note: When Lizzie was born, Mindy was an evening news anchor for the NBC affiliate in Lexington, Ky. Viewers (about 250,000 at the time) avidly followed Mindy’s pregnancy and loved Lizzie from the moment they saw her.)
Beautiful post, Mindy…my oldest is almost 25, and has an 18-month-old. She only lives 25 minutes away, so I’ve never had to say “Goodbye” to her. I left home at 17, and have lived thousands of miles from family since then…I’m rather glad my daughter didn’t move “away.”
Thanks for sharing this post, Kathy!
You are so welcome. I feel so blessed to have a friend like Mindy, someone with such a huge heart, such significant insight, and such lovely writing skills. So glad you enjoyed this, Wendy—————-
Thank you, Wendy. Liz is such a lovable person that each of us in her family wants to spend time with her. How lovely that your daughter and grandchild live so close to you!
A beautiful post! Thanks for giving me some insight into what my parents must have felt when I went off to university. I was like Liz at that age. Not keen for anyone to see how I was really feeling.
Thank you for sharing that, Lisa. I think we all have times when we enclose ourselves. I certainly have my moments!
I continue to say good bye (let go) even as my children move through adult hood. I’m watch and participate from a healthy distance – that is only so far away. A healthy adult distnace is my goal! And they keep me in line! 🙂
All so true, Marlene! Healthy distance. I love how you phrase that.
Aren’t you glad that we moms have facebook to help us keep the distance while keeping up, somewhat? And, yes, saying good bye/letting go is something we have to do, still, and always will. Thanks for reminding me of this. 🙂
So beautifully written and bittersweet. I won’t lie, Mindy…from where I sit with a four and six year old, I’m not looking forward to a day like the one you describe above. (Maybe I will be by then?)
It’s obvious you did a wonderful job with your daughter. Kudos to you for accepting her privacy and letting her go with such grace.
You are lovely. Thank you for the compliments. I know you are loving this time with your children right now. Four and six are such great ages. Most of my photos of my girls were taken when they were between four and twelve, I think. Their little bright faces are just so dear and open. I love looking at those photos now!
In the honest words of a mama. As a new mom, I find myself making decisions for the best “I think”, and hoping that my boy will come out better for them. Thank you for this look ahead at mothering 🙂
Oh, Tori, you are welcome. Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy your baby!
I will be honest: some days I look forward to that day, but I suspect it is similar to birthing your first child. You can’t really understand it until it hits you in the face.
Absolutely! It’s overwhelming!
A beautiful telling. In a sense, we are always getting them go, from the moment of birth.
Gosh, you are right!
What a beautiful girl! Reminds me of the emotions I felt when my own daughter left home for the last time.