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He left this morning, this oldest boy of mine. I should have been zipping him into a bright red snowsuit, kissing him on the nose, and sending him outside to play with his brothers. Instead, early in the morning, I stood in an airport, tiptoed up to kiss his bearded cheek and whispered I love you into his ear. Time really does fly.

I had him for three wonderfully ordinary weeks, full of the glory of doing nothing special. Yesterday, though, I felt the temptation to make the last day meaningful. I’ve made this mistake before.

Nothing ruins precious time more than the pressure to BE MEANINGFUL.

I’ve learned it’s better to spend the days with open hands, letting the time run freely through my fingers until there isn’t any left, and I am gentle with myself and my few tears, because I’m his mom and I love him and it’s all so very precious without me having to make it so.

 

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It’s been looming, that corner up ahead that I’ve known I’ll have to turn. But seeing it in my inbox, the email confirming it, trips me up. Knowing something and KNOWING something are two different things.

So here we go, baby girl. A goodbye is coming. I’ve written and deleted a thousand words – painful, mommy-sad words dripping with emotion and hurt – but the truth is, those aren’t the words I want to release. These are, instead…

You know what? I like your mommy, and I am glad she is better. I’m glad she is clean and sober and trying to stay clean and sober. I know she loves you so much, and I know she wants to be the one to raise you and love you and watch you grow up. She should be the one. She’s your mom. I’m sad, but not because she gets to raise you. I’m sad because I have to let you go.

I can be happy for her (and you) and sad for myself, at the same time. This is the way it goes when you love people, you see. You never get to keep them all to yourself.

You have been a gift and a joy and our precious princess, and I can’t quite imagine yet what your leaving will do to my heart. Hearts get beat up a little in this life, that’s for sure.

I wouldn’t trade a minute, though. I’ll take a battered heart over an untouched heart any old day.

I’ll find better words later, maybe. But today, in the freshness of the knowing, I’ll just say this.

Gubba loves you.

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If there is such a thing.

I don’t know. Is there “good news” in a goodbye? I’ve said so many of them in fifty years.

Funerals of family or friends or just folks I’ve known a bit, and it’s a hard thing, every time. Even if it’s dressed up and called a celebration of life, and even if we talk about hope and heaven and how they’re better off, its a hard thing, every time.

I’ve said goodbye to people I think I’ll likely never see again. To friends moving or to friends I’m moving away from. To those passing soon.

I’ve said goodbye to an unborn babe, to a child leaving home, to summer, to well-loved homes.

The thing is, I suppose, that every goodbye is really a crossroad. It means an end to traveling together. It means going separate ways, and that means repacking luggage, separating out what’s mine to take with me, and what is best left behind.

Sometimes that is freeing. Sometimes its burdening. Sometimes, honestly, it’s just confusing.

But it’s gonna happen. You can count on it.

And if there is any gospel to it, for me, it’s maybe this.

Goodbyes move me forward. Goodbyes can challenge and inspire me to rethink the well-trod path I am on. A goodbye forces change and takes me to a place I might not have otherwise gone.

Goodbyes, more than anything in my life, have helped me grow.