Last week we moved our first child, Jamee, into her dorm at Saint Louis University, where she begins a new, exciting and maybe a little scary chapter in her life. She will be studying Nuclear Medicine Technology and will be running with the SLU Billikens' Cross Country and Track teams. We've had a few teary phone calls from her, as we knew we would. Stepping out of the safe, secure bubble that is Tremont, Illinois, where family resides at nearly every corner, will not be easy.
As her mother, it is difficult to be away from her. I want everything to be smooth sailing and easy, though I know that wouldn't really be best. I want to take all of her fears and uncertainties and cast them out the window. Unrealistic as it may be, I want to know that everything is going to be perfect for her. It is painful, yet beneath all of the emotions, I know that all of this is normal. As parents, we spend 18 years preparing our children for such a time as this. We teach values and responsibility so that one day they are capable of leaving home and surviving without our constant supervision.
After Laynee died we received several cards that had the quote "she is just away." With no disrespect to anyone who may have sent these cards, I must say that this was not my favorite thing to read. I understand that this refers to our loved ones being in heaven where they are not gone from us forever. It refers to the hope we have through salvation. Knowing that those cards of purest motive, I still could never feel comfortable with those words. Jamee is "just away" Laynee is not.
In contrast to the way that Laynee left us, Jamee's leaving home is natural and even expected. It is what we want for our children. Every young person chooses a different course after they graduate from high school. Jamee's course has taken her two hours from home. We spent several days preparing her for this move. Now that she is there, we support her in whatever ways that we can. We can sense how and when she needs us and act accordingly. I can hear her voice, talk to her on the phone and in the span of one conversation, hear the apprehension in her voice turn to the strength that we know Jamee possesses. I can encourage her and tell her that as she makes new friends it will get better and she will feel less alone. Always I know that if she really needs me, I can be there for her in 2 hours. With today's technology I can skype and see her beautiful face. In seconds, I can send words of encouragement via text message. Care packages will be sent to brighten her day and remind her that she is dearly loved. While I know all too well that life can be taken in a moment, as long as there is breath, there is hope that I will see her, touch her, embrace her again very soon. Thanksgiving and Christmas will not be lonely without her, for she will be with us. I can hear my name come from her lips and speak her name directly to her. I don't have to wonder what she is doing in her new home because she can tell me. I knew that yesterday she ran for time, she met one on one with her coach. Last night she went to her first soccer game. Today she is attending church with our very dear friend. I know all of these things because she is just away. She is growing and learning from this experience. She will face many difficult days and sometimes there will be tears but she will mature in them. In the meantime, I pray with a constant fervor, asking my Lord Jesus to hold her close to him, to guide her footsteps and her heart. I rejoice when I hear her say that she has spent much time in God's Word and that she appreciates her family so much. I know by what she tells me that, already, she is being a shining light for Jesus through her actions and her choices. I know that she is just away.
Perhaps all of this can be summed up by simply saying that because she is "just away" she still needs me. For two years my soul has writhed against the lack of being needed by my beautiful little girl. To send my child to college is part of the natural, onward progression of life. To bury my child is utterly unnatural, an antithesis to the way things should be. Jalayne has gone to where I am not needed. I cannot hear her voice, see her smile or pray that she makes good choices. I cannot do anything that a mother does for her child because she is not "just away"
CS Lewis once said that "grief is like the sky, it covers everything." In recent weeks, our family has found that this is so very true. It seems that there is no right or wrong way to travel this path of grief. I have created this blog in hopes that some day we will be able to look back on our journey and see written proof that our great God never leaves us. God is good all the time.