Parting – The Sweetest Sorrow

 Parting   The Sweetest SorrowFor the past two weeks and for several more to come, new high school graduates are enrolling at colleges all over the country.  Most will stick close to home.  Some will live at home.  Many, though, will move into campus housing and begin the experience known as “college”.  It’s what we parents have been working toward for years, supporting our children through grammar and then high school in that long trek toward college.  But now that it’s here, many of us parents are surprised by the deep emotion welling up from deep inside, straight into our eyes and then streaming down our faces.

OMG.  Our child is really growing away from us.

Yeah, we know that separation is Nature’s Way.  And it starts from Day 1.

I remember feeling this grief so many times before that moment of leaving for college…losing those squealing newborn sounds, the first steps, the no longer wanting to be breast fed, the first days of day care and then kindergarten and then the school bus and then summer camp and on and on until the day she left for college in CA.  There were a thousand little separations that led up to that moment, all designed by Nature to keep life moving.

In the middle of the night before Nora got on a plane to cross the country to her new college, she crept into my room and whispered, “Mom.  Mom, I think I made a terrible mistake.  I can’t go to California.  It’s too far away.  Why did you let me do this?”  And then she burst into tears.  I pulled her under the covers and wrapped myself around her as I had countless times before when I had read to her or sung to her or rubbed her back to sleep.  I cradled my beautiful girl, kissing her hair that shone like spun silk, and softly whispered that it was all going to be OK, that CMC was an excellent choice for her and that I’d be fine.  I told her about what wonderful moments she had to look forward to, told her that it was natural to seize up a bit before taking a huge step and how proud I was that she was poised to take it.  At her request, just like in the old days, I sang her our very own theme song and best lullaby, Gershwin’s “Our Love Is Here To Stay”.

“In time the Rockies may crumble, Gibraltar may tumble. They’re only made of clay, but our love is here to stay.”

Soon, Nora settled down and then – just like that – she was up and disappearing back to her room to sleep.  When my bedroom door was closed securely, I burst into deep, deep sobs and I swear, I cried the whole rest of that very long night, not getting one wink of sleep for all of my grief.

My sweet girl, the love of my life, was leaving and I knew life would change forever.

Although I was prepared for this moment, I was startled by the power of the feeling of loss.  I sobbed into my pillow for fear she’d hear me.  Soon the dawn came and we had to mobilize to get to Logan Airport for her flight to LA where her Dad would meet her and drive her to Claremont.   The plan was for me to join her on campus in 2 days and help her buy all of that unnecessary stuff kids think they need for their dorm room. I did that joyfully, for we’d always been great shopping buddies.

Then the final moment of parting came and I left for the airport once again, this time to spend a week with my close sister/friends, Joy and Cynthia, in Sedona, AZ, before I returned home to my empty house, writing and crying it all out.  That was how I got through that passage.

No matter how you do it, be prepared for grief to rise out of nowhere, grab you by the throat and choke you, for grief will have its way.

I carefully watched the sparrow family living in a nest in the eves of my beach house this spring and wondered if the avian parents feel that same tug, that same heart heaviness when those tiny little fliers finally, successfully, go their own ways.  I’ll bet if birds could cry, they would.

This parting for college is ultimately a sacred moment, profound, utterly unique in life.  It is likely to take all the strength you have to pretend to your brave young adult that it’s OK for them to leave now, OK for them to savor their lives, that you’ll be OK without them.  Except in that same moment, some part of you knows that you won’t, that life will never be the same.

And just like that, the moment is over and your New Normal begins.  And life somehow goes on.

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