“For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:19)
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away …” (Revelation 21:1)
It was momentous. It was STUPENDOUS. It was heartbreaking. And horrendous. This moment of truth. Would I be able to let my kids go? After my daughter’s trunk party, the remaining weeks left to us passed in a blur. Lately, when I looked into my daughter’s face, I saw the little girl she used to be. My baby’s face. “What will you do,” said my friends and co-workers, “when your babies are gone?” For my part, I tried very hard not to think about it. I really didn’t doubt my ability to handle it, at first. After all, this is what I had been waiting for and the culmination of all my efforts for the past 5 years. This mark, this measurement of my success was to see my kids raised to adulthood, in spite of all our setbacks and sent off to college.
“Stick a fork in me, I’m DONE!” I crowed, jubilantly echoing Al Bundy from Married with Children. My friend responded via email, “You don’t really think it’s over, do you?” But she couldn’t derail my enthusiasm. I’d accomplished my goal and saw freedom on the horizon. I was looking forward to that, I told myself. To be free, at last. To start all over again. To be truly single. My end was in sight. Wow. Yay. Right?
Problem was, reality began to intrude upon my little celebration. What would it really be like to not have the kids around? I forced my thoughts to veer away from that direction. I wouldn’t think about my soon-to-be empty nest. I figured it would only make matters worse if I spent our last few months together, dreading their departure. I put it off, delaying the inevitable like Scarlett O’Hara, “I won’t think about that today. If I think about that right now, I’ll go crazy! I’ll think about that tomorrow.”
As the day of their departure drew near, I repeated that mantra over again in my head. Just don’t think about it. Finally, Wednesday, the day before THE FINAL DAY, came. I had done all I could do. All the preparations were made. I could no longer put it off. I couldn’t hide from the truth of it by keeping myself occupied with tasks and shopping. Early in the day, I began to have panic attacks. I couldn’t breathe. My heart clutched. The words resounded in my head, filling me, “What WILL you do when they’re gone?” Suddenly, all of my good plans seemed like so much garbage. GARBAGE! I didn’t have a plan! Not a real plan, I moaned, inwardly. Panicked, I gave into the crushing fear of it.
It rolled over me, devastating me with the weight of it. Who do I think I am? I can’t do this! This is too much! I was overwhelmed by the thoughts of packing my kids, my daughter especially, off to college. I was intimidated at the prospect of renting the U-Haul and driving them. A U-Haul? Who was I kidding? I couldn’t do this – I wasn’t up to the task. Despair filled me; fear engulfed me as I wailed, “What’s gonna happen to ME?” And it wasn’t about my daughter leaving anymore as I gave into my grief and self pity. I felt pain, like I hadn’t since my divorce. It was quite a party until my daughter heard me sniffling quietly to myself.
“Are you crying?” she asked.
“No.” I lied, pouting and moping.
“Punk,” she responded.
It made me laugh, just a little and lifted me from my funk long enough for me to see the real problem. It wasn’t just about separation anxiety, although that was certainly part of it. It was about my fear of the future. I was simply afraid of, well, everything. Of doing something different in driving the U-Haul. Of moving out of my comfort zone. Of being alone for the first time in 20 years. Of having no one to fill that space, to take care of and to take care of me. It was scary. It was starting over.
“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7)
Along with this realization came an epiphany. Fear is not of God. I should have recognized the true source but the fear had grown, unchecked, until it drowned out everything. It was almost paralyzing in it’s intensity. I knew God didn’t want me to feel this way and the pain was so great, neither did I. So, I prayed. Initially, I prayed my fears. Then the prayer morphed and transformed into a prayer of confidence: Lord, you have always taken care of me! I will not let the evil one make me fear my future and cloud my mind with doubts. At that moment, I remembered that God promised good things for me and I was comforted. I went to sleep and slept like a person who had no cares.
The next day brought a new Loria, one who had stared her fear in the face and conquered it. A Loria who could do what she had to do. I picked up the U-Haul, packed up my kids and their belongings and drove them away to college. The benchmark had been reached. The line of demarcation had been passed. A future filled with possibilities and a new world awaited me. No longer hovering on the cusp, I stepped into it, ready to face whatever the day would bring…