Just four words, but they felt weighty as I wrote them across the front of each post card that would go in the return mail. It was the act of writing those four words that made it real. It was the writing of those words that made it true. My three millennials do indeed no longer live here. I have now what is referred to as, “the empty nest”. As gradual and non-linear as the process has been, the finality of those words still took me by surprise.
Having achieved every parent’s dream, what do I feel? Granted, two of the three have returned home to live for brief periods of time within the past year. Now, however, all are gainfully employed and living in three different states. Distance adds credibility to the finality of, “this time its for real”. Seems that’s often the case, a few false starts or practice runs before taking off for good. If that was supposed to prepare me for this present reality, it didn’t. You can’t know ahead of time how you will feel, no matter how much you anticipate and prepare. You can’t know until you experience it.
I am always surprised when I experience what I did not expect to experience. This is something I knew for certain would happen one day, I just didn’t think “one day” would ever get here, especially not so soon. I expected celebration, what I feel is a sadness. I expected the exhilaration of freedom, what I feel is the emptiness of no one’s expectations of me.
Is this an ending or a beginning? It’s both of course, because every ending ushers in a new beginning of something. It will be the beginning of something I choose or of something thrust upon me, either way, the only way is forward, no going back. And I’ve already stated that I like beginnings, all things new and uncharted, the adventure of the unknown. I can now make decisions without needing to consider the needs and personal preferences of three other individuals. And yet, learning to live well with others, balancing their needs with my own seems ultimately more fulfilling than considering only myself.
We were meant to live life in community. The “every man for himself” ideal brings upon us the strife, isolation, crime, grief and destruction that we witness in our own lives and the lives of those around us and in our nation. All we have to do is turn on the news. The results of this philosophy surround us. The molehills in our lives become mountains and our mountains become insurmountable without the compassion and cooperation of those who would surround and uplift us in our times of need. The miracle is that mercy still exists and is experienced, often when least expected by those who least deserve it. And that is each one of us at one time or another in our lives.
So let us be dispensers of mercy, each one, that we may also be receivers of mercy in our times of need. Holding fast to our mustard seed of faith, let us face our futures with anticipation rather than dread, courage instead of fear and hope rather than despair. After all, each day is a new beginning, a gift from God, waiting for us to fill it with our choices. Choose well, my friends.
sincerely, Grace Day