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.)