So, this is college move in time of the year... Two weeks ago, we moved my nephew Brett in for his Freshman year... And just yesterday, we moved Brittany and Brooke (his two best friends) into their college dorm. It was really the first dorm room experience I had trying to figure out twin beds, (stack them or not...) the quickest way to make a boys dorm room sanitized and smell good, and of course I learned really quick the boys dorm room only needed bean bags and an X-Box while the girls couldn't survive without sequins and Scenty's! Ultimately the time was about getting the kids settled in, but knowing the outcome of the day would be saying goodbye... This may have been my first dorm experience but this was not my first in saying goodbye to someone I loved so much and then have to figure out how to survive in their absence as I know many of these mothers on these days are feeling.
I have had nephews and nieces go off to college through the years, and it still hurt my heart for my sister when she cried last week when her 2 boys left for college, and this isn't even her first year at this... her boys are a junior and a senior at Ole Miss. Thus, by my own indications of watching my sister, it doesn't get easier as the years pass. (My mom always said "it gets harder as your children get older"- I think I understand what she was talking about now)
Clearly, when we are preparing to be a mother, we DREAM about what he or she will be like when they are born, when they grow up... what kindergarten will bring, then middle school... and of course, where will they be sitting the night that they say goodbye to their high school journey and head to greet life in trade school or college... we are full of HOPE that they will make great choices, be the best they can be, and hope that their dream is bigger than ours...
I sometimes think at birth, we go into 'college preparatory" mode and never come out... everything we do is geared around raising our children for the next step in life, from introducing solid foods to potty training, from high school to college... we daily prepare them (and ourselves) to be ready for what comes next. That's what parents do. We hold their hands until they can walk and then (sigh), 'let go....'
I remember so much being pregnant with Nathan, (now 12 yrs old and in 7th grade) and I used to wonder ALL of the time what he would be like... would he like Ole Miss like his daddy? Would he love peanut butter like me? Would he? Will he? Is he? I DREAMED, I HOPED for the VERY BEST FOR HIM! And today, I see a beautiful, solid young man. His heart, full of compassion and life... and his eyes full of faith. He sees, often times, what I cannot! Hebrews 11:1 says "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." Nathan has had to live being sure of his faith... he held and kissed his baby brother after he passed away, he saw his mama on life support, he sat at the end of the hospital hallway at 5 years old beside his daddy as they pleaded with God to keep me here on earth. He BELIEVED, HE DREAMED AND HE HOPED. And although life has given to him many challenges, he has remained driven and determined to persevere through adversity. A recent purchase of new cleats, size 10, let me know just how much and how fast Nathan was growing up! Tomorrow night I will be his biggest fan as he plays his first middle school football game, and at the same time, I will be tenderly aware that so many won't get that opportunity of seeing their boys on the field.
And then I remember being pregnant with Matthew... Oh the DREAMS AND HOPES I had for him! I "knew what to expect!" Because I had a son already... I "knew" what it would be like to give birth, to experience that rush of goodness and grace as the first cry would come... Oh how I anticipated hearing him, loving him as he grew up... watching him grow up... seeing him learn to ride a bike... I wondered would he be like his daddy and need 4 coats of sunscreen on or would he be a beach bunny like me? I wondered if he would have my eyes or his daddy's hair... what he would like to eat, to do, would he like baseball or football better... (I can honestly say, I never wondered if any of my boys would like basketball, in my mind that wasn't an option) Sorry to all of my sweet basketball friends..,, I love you but the squeaking of the tennis shoes coupled with the wardrobe (ugly shorts) drive me crazy!
My heart, my mind, my soul and with every breath I had, my hopes and dreams were so misplaced - so very broken - so NOT what I EVER thought it would be! I would learn to live my hopes and my dreams in a new way. I would learn to believe in heaven more than I ever did before. I would learn to be broken and still be able to stand. I would learn to love him and be his mother on this side of heaven. I would learn to let go of the hopes and dreams I had for him on earth and pour all of that into helping others through his story. This is how he is 'GROWING' with us... in our home... in our hearts... this is how he is 'REMEMBERED AND LOVED' by many... Matthew left the earth, but remained in our hearts and our lives and continues to grow daily... daily with us.
And then our little Will. our JOY, our LIGHT came into this world through the selfless and admirable love of someone who chose to let him live... our most amazing GIFT of life is now almost 6 years old and I am so honored to be his mommy! I cannot express how much joy he gives to us. I found myself learning how to HOPE AND DREAM again... I remember the day when I realized I get another chance to be a mama! Could anything be better? All of the things I had to let go of with Matthew, I could now embrace again! There would be bedtime stories... and tooth fairies and riding a bike! And as we are in his 3rd week of kindergarten, I am looking ahead HOPING and DREAMING of what he will become... how he will grow up... where will he go to college... what kind of car or truck will he want? He is so tall that everyone always says he should play basketball! (cough, cough... didn't they get my memo?) He has filled our home with more laughter and complete JOY than I could ever explain!!!
Hopes and dreams... hopes and dreams...
As I was looking around yesterday at the college students and parents, it didn't go unnoticed in my heart that I would never get this experience with Matthew... and it broke my heart all over again. I know I let go of the hopes and dreams I had for him on earth in a physical way... but my mama heart still longs to hold him again, see a smiley face on his school paper or hug him goodbye as I leave the college campus. SURREAL. All the while being SO VERY GRATEFUL for the 2 precious boys I have here with me.
There were boxes surrounding the hallway with names and room numbers on them... There will never be boxes at college with his room number or name... NEVER. There will never be a campus security guard to check his student ID... NEVER. Once again, SURREAL... but all the while SO VERY GRATEFUL for the 2 precious boys I have here with me!
The absence of Matthew, in a physical sense, causes such random and unbearable heartache. I can honestly say that NEVER goes away. Deep within my heart, I know I will never be able to experience life with him on earth and it stings. Period.
Ronnie looked at Will the other day and said he couldn't believe Will was already almost 6 years old... and then he said, he wished he would stay 6 forever. I said, not me... because as much as I don't want him to grow up too fast... I still want him to grow up... because that means he will still be here with me. I want my boys to grow up... to experience life... to graduate from high school...and yes, I want them to go to college... I want to be all up in their dorm room cleaning and rearranging.... and praying. I want to kiss them goodbye on the campus before I drive off.... why? Because growing up is a gift... and I want to have that gift forever. And one day, after I am gone... I want them to come back to me and Matthew in heaven.
If you have a child going off to college, I hope you know what a gift that is... it is truly a blessing to be able to raise your children.... pray for your children and understand that with each new chapter comes a new heart string... One that can be pulled from so far away... even from heaven!
Jeremiah 29:11 is probably one of the most read and gifted Bible verses at graduation time and college move in days... it says "For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Here's to hope and a good future to each one of you... and here's to hearing "goodbye mom" and then getting a phone call an hour later with a great big "I love you" on the other end! Here's to the tears as you close the door and drive off campus and here's to the tears as you get the dirty laundry basket at the first visit home! GIFTS! THOSE ARE GIFTS!!!
My love and well wishes to all of you kids who are experiencing these fresh new days of college life~ and to you parents, I know hearing "Bye Mom" may be so hard, but I am SO THANKFUL you are getting to experience that with your child. I haven't been in your shoes yet... but God willing, I will be... 2 times!