Mama…Please Don’t Cry When You Say Goodbye!

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I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers,   Philemon 1:4 ESV

It was THE day…the day we actually left my baby at her new home, Eastern University, a few miles outside Philadelphia.

I was told I was not allowed to cry.

“Mom, we’ve done that…no, I don’t want you to cry.”

“Okay, I won’t.”

I defined the meaning of stiff upper lip. When the inevitable quivers came, I straightened up, took a deep breath, swallowed hard, and tightened my mouth.

When the tears threatened to spill over, I squeezed my lids tight and dabbed at the corners of my eyes.

I could do this for my daughter. She meant it…Amelia really didn’t want me to cry and she knew I was on the verge of tears most of the time. I could so easily go there and then she might go there. And she didn’t want to. Not today. I understood. And so I obeyed. I didn’t cry.

Amelia is attending a small Christian school and is a member of the even smaller honors college, 34 incoming students this year. They were all heading off to a wilderness camping trip where they will bond for the first of many times over the next four years.

There was a small parting ceremony.

Bagels, muffins, coffee. A little worship music. A reflection. Reassurance from Psalm 121 for the parents and families gathered, as well as the students.

…the Lord will watch over your coming and going

    both now and forevermore.

Then it was time to go.

We gave Amelia a hug and a kiss. And well, this time, I just couldn’t hold back any longer. I mean a mama’s gotta cry when she says goodbye to her last baby…at least this mama does.

“No mom, no…I can’t.” Amelia moved away from me.

I gave her one last hug. We couldn’t drag it out any longer.

I turned and took my husband’s arm. He held me for a moment with his gaze. And I burst into tears. But I kept moving toward the door. Glancing back just once.

“It’s okay, Mom.”

I nodded, then walked to our car, crying. Heaving a little, shoulders shaking, the dam broke. It was okay. It was just Chris and me. I was out of Amelia’s view and earshot.

Never to be the first to leave a party…or a parting, I went to climb into the car and realized there was one more photo op. The kids and their mentors were gathering in front of the vans and canoe-hauling truck for one group photo before they were off.

I composed myself, grabbed my camera, and joined the lineup of folks flashing their parting shot. Amelia was already engaged, talking, laughing.

We returned to our car, standing in the open doors, ready to leave. We watched as the caravan rolled away. Chris and I smiled a little tearfully across the car rooftop at one another.

And that was it.

Now it may be that I’ll see my baby again soon. She’s nearby. And I have two other daughters in the Philly area. Yet I know, as a mama who has been through this now four times, they may come back. But you can’t go back.

My years of full-time parenting are over.

I believe there is much family joy and celebration, lots of life to seize, many more memories ahead. But this day marked a cataclysmic shift in my life. And I’m going to take a little time to look back, savor the past, and dwell for a spell in thanksgiving for what has been, before I rush toward what is next.

Have you had to let go of anyone lately? How’d you do? I’d love to hear about it…

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Elise has been married for 28 years and is mom to four mostly grown girls. She is a writer, editor, writing coach, and blogger. She believes we all have stories that matter--big life bios and small meaningful moments. Elise believes our stories are a reflection of God’s glory and are meant to be shared. They have the power to inform, reform, and transform. She loves God, family, friends...and really likes travel!

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