My sister and I live about three hours apart so we do our best to visit every couple months. This was easier when I was single and she had just one boy, Rafton. On one of those visits north, when Raf was about two years old he and my sister walked me to the train which would carry me home and they waved goodbye from the platform. I can still see his sweet little face, waving through the window, but I also saw the quivering, the look in the eye that said, this is really, really hard. Before my train had even reached the first stop my sister and I talked on the phone. She relayed that as they were driving away from the train station, she looked back at Raf, tears in her own eyes and said I understand, goodbyes are hard. He placed his hand over his heart and said, hurts. Goodbyes haven't gotten any easier on his part and while I understand the difficulty that brings, I embrace the bit of Hagenbuch he has in him. And because of it he is the one I hug longest when we have our goodbyes.
Now as a mom of a nearly six year old son, I am discovering goodbyes through his eyes. The easy goodbyes come at drop off at school; barely a hug and he bounds into his day. Recently, as I was leaving for a weekend away with girlfriends, he clung to me, telling me I couldn't leave, he would miss me too much. We've taught him that even though we are away from people we love we always carry them in our hearts. We talk about how you can feel that love and still feel close even though we are miles away.
We are in the midst of one the biggest goodbyes of his little life and all I can think about is Raf's gesture, hand over heart, simply stated, hurts. My son AB has attended the same school for three years and his last day is upon us. We talk about all that it has been, all the memories and learning and adventure he has had. We remind him how great to have been in such a loving, supportive environment for three years, half his life I tell him! But we also talk about what is ahead, the neighborhood school, with a cafeteria and library and music room, PE in the gym and a really big playground! We plan for the days that we'll walk to school, and soon enough days he can walk home with friends. All the while I hope he grasps only my joy and none of the hurt my heart is feeling.
I've tried to encourage AB to feel all of the emotion (in the way you can encourage a boy of that age!) I've said that every feeling is his and is right; sadness, frustration, excitement, nervous, all of it is ok. We've seen the emotion play out in different ways and recognize the difficulty it must be for him. But true to his nature, he speaks of what is ahead, what will happen at his new school, what fun he will have there.
As I walked by his room at bedtime I could see that he wasn't quite asleep, but almost. I went to his bed, kissed him and sat down. I don't want to leave Rowanberry. Can I please have one more year? I didn't tell him it would be ok, I didn't remind him of what is ahead, I held back my tears, smiled and told him I loved him. I reminded him again how lucky he is to have had Rowanberry, to be in a place where he is known and loved and encouraged and when you have that, it is really, really hard to say goodbye.
He sighed, it is.
I sat with him a few extra minutes, kissed his head and said goodnight. Now here I am, trying to hold on to my own words; to bask in the beauty of what has been, of watching my son be embraced, held, comforted and celebrated. What greater gift in life than this.
Hand over heart, hurts. Hand over heart, loved. Hand over heart, blessed.