The envelope sat menacingly on the table. It had already been opened and the contents gushed over. A celebration of sorts had begun, at least for 3 people in my home. Problem is, 4 of us live there. I am the celebratory hold out.

It is two weeks later and the envelope is still on our counter, the contents now hidden under an order form. The contents are proof, well proofs really, that another chapter of life is coming. On one page is Brock, my now 17 year old son, wearing a purple cap and gown. Another page is him in a tuxedo. These are his Senior portraits. I have not accepted yet that I need to look at these. Each time my wife admires these proofs and wants to discuss our potential order, I find a reason to exit the conversation.

To be clear, I am enormously proud of the young man my son is becoming. I admire so many amazing traits he exhibits, especially his sense of mercy, compassion and creativity. I am not however, ready to think about his presence in our home being part time. I am not ready for his chair to be empty at dinner. I am not ready for the absence of his humor, his grunts or his eye-rolling at his sister. While many are starting to celebrate this transition, selfishly, I am dealing with pangs of anticipated grief over the absence of his presence. I’ll get to the celebration too, but I need to acknowledge what conflicting emotions I am currently carrying.

As a youth minister, I could celebrate with families in these moments. I could read about parents experiencing appropriate sadness. I could hear their stories and see their tears, but until that envelope landed on my kitchen table, I couldn’t understand it. I’ll write about these moments and emotions from time to time during the next year for three reasons:

  1. Personal catharsis.
  2. To give space for other parents walking this same path to know they are not alone in this paradox of emotions.
  3. As a way for ministry colleagues who work with families like mine to have a glimpse at the complexity of what we are experiencing.

I suppose my next post will be a confession when I finally deal with that envelope. In the meantime, I am keeping this card on top of it.

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