I’ve walked away from them before, plenty of times. I’ve left my children at friends’ houses, school, sports practices, etc. Once I even left Paige at her school way past the time when I was supposed to pick her up. That was only one instance, and I still feel terrible (and she reminds me of that little slip-up when she feels the need). Sometimes I walk away with a tear in my eye and a prayer in my heart; leaving them at summer camp for a week inspires that walk.
Tryouts and auditions bring moments of fervent praying (and/or cursing) out loud in my car. Other times I feel a surge of righteous freedom (think Braveheart) as I look forward to a moment of alone time. It’s difficult not to skip when that happens, and sometimes I do (once the kiddos are out of sight, of course).
There is one particular walk that was the hardest moment of my life. Choosing to relinquish the body of my sweet Kate to caretakers in the hospital, turn out of that room, and walk down that corridor to the terrible sunny cold December morning was absolutely the worst moment I have ever experienced.
Everything up to that point had been reaction, shock, fear, pain. But that walk was a choice I made – it was time to leave and start what would be a life without her body next to mine, without her hand clenched in my own. I felt the eyes and sympathy of all those I walked past, the tears and sniffles; I could hear their thoughts to call home and check on their own children.
The transition of walking away was understandably difficult for years afterward. Every step was an act of faith, of letting go. It always is, really, but I was faced with a new reality, a real finality. And then as they grew older, a shift occurred, and they started to walk away from me.
First Syd, then Paige as they started to drive away, independence bubbling like a newly-poured Coke. I remember that feeling as a teenager; it’s intoxicating. But now we are at a crossroads of sorts; decisions are being made in which my people are choosing to walk away from me, for weeks, and months.
And I recognize that skip in their step – in her step.
Of course, I’m talking about my eldest girl, my Syd. It’s a beautiful dance I’m watching; her moving onto this new stage (pun intended), moving forward into her own life, her own choices, her own dance. And of course, I’m so proud of her – more than these simple words can express.
She is participating in the journey of the dance, as it was first described to me years ago in a graduate class: two steps forward, one step back. Only now she’s dancing to her own music, her own rhythm. And it’s two steps away from me.
It always has been; I know that. And I know that she will be more than fine; she is a capable, responsible, intelligent, young woman – ready for this next step. I just know how much I will miss her. And even though it’s her walking away, it’s my choice to let her go: to celebrate her firsts even when I am not there to witness or even know them, to mourn her mistakes even when I don’t know she’s making them; to be available but not insist on being present.
She is ready. I am ready. But much like that December morning, the brave choice is to let go and choose the unknown path without her hand clenched in mine.
To love her…as she’s walking away.
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Rebecca Long is the mom of five active kids in this world, and one beyond the veil. In addition to full-time teaching, Rebecca wears many hats including wife, friend, chauffeur, maid, chef…(and that’s just on Mondays!). You can often find her with coffee cup in hand, unless she left it in the microwave for the third time this morning. Focused on grateful living, Rebecca tries to live this one ordinary life with authenticity,
humor, Jesus, and of course, coffee.