Monday, April 27, 2015

I'm Not Sure I'm Going to Make It



My beautiful daughter Katelyn has been planning to serve a religious mission for our church since she was old enough to walk. As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons), we believe that it is important that we share our beliefs will all members of the community and world. Young women are given the opportunity to serve our church in this capacity at the age of 19 years old. Girls serve for a period of 18 months, while boys serve for two years and can begin their service at the age of 18 years old.

Katelyn has always had a strong belief in the gospel and has felt prompted to go out into the world and share that message with others. I'm very proud of her for wanting to share the very concepts that bring her joy and eternal happiness with others.

But I'm also very sad.

Last week she met with our local religious leader (our Bishop) to begin the process of submitting her application papers for her mission. She came home very excited to share with me the date she hopes to leave on her mission. She counted down the days on her i-pod to see when she could actually send in her papers to our church headquarters and start the process to receive her mission call. As I sat and listened, I felt a wave of grief crash over me. The room was dark and I tried very hard to maintain my facial composure as she shared her plans with me.

But as she walked away she turned and asked, "Are you crying?"

While I thought I had been so discreet in my feelings, she could apparently read either in my face or demeanor that I was feeling something.

I have experienced too many good-byes in my life. I watched my family crumble when I was a child and my parents' marriage ended in divorce. I hugged my family good-bye as we traveled across the country to start a new life in a different part of the world. I've stood at many an airport gate waving as a loved one left us to return home.

And I experienced real and complete loss when my beautiful boy Joey returned home to his Heavenly Father after his bout with cancer.

I hate good-byes. I can't even really explain how deeply I hate good-byes.

Last year several of my lovely friends were moving from our neighborhood. I couldn't even go outside to say good-bye. I just wouldn't do it. I couldn't do it.

And now my amazing daughter, the beautiful girl whom I have raised and love and held in my heart for almost 19 years is going out into the world for a period of 18 months during which my only contact with her will be emails, letters, and a phone call on Mother's Day and Christmas. For much the rest of the time she will be busy teaching the gospel.

It is strange that pride and sorrow can occupy one space at one time.

I will never forget when the hospital finally explained that our little son would soon be leaving us. I still feel it deeply in my heart, and I deftly avoid all memory of that day as it was more excruciating than I care to remember.

And now my beautiful daughter is telling me that she too will soon be leaving me in a way that is less permanent but still leaves us apart. I am heartbroken and yet so happy for her.

Why would we, as members of our church, encourage our children to leave us? It is simply because we know that we have a duty to share what we know. It's because if we truly believe what we live, then we will want to make sure others' know about it. I honor and accept that not everyone will believe what we believe. But I would not feel right in wanting her to stay home when she feels so right about going.

So as she plans to leave this fall, I'm going to have to start getting used to the idea of her no longer being in our home. It was going to happen some time. Whether it was through her going off to college, or making a new life with a husband and her own family. But I've never been faced so completely with the reality of her leaving.

I'm not ready. She is. But I'm not ready. And I'm not sure I'm going to make it without her. My kids are my heart, and it feels like once again it's being torn from my chest. How am I going to let her go? I have no idea how to be without her. It's going to be one of the hardest things we do as a family watching her go into the world. And while I'm so very proud of her and her decision, I'm also struggling to let her go.

How am I going to make through this? How did you make it through a long good-bye?

34 comments:

  1. Oh golly Jen, I am no good at goodbyes either. I have tears dripping down my cheeks as I read this :-( I couldn't read and NOT post. So I have no words of wisdom for you. I don't even live beside you to come and give you a hug or pre-occupy you with my crazy rants and even crazier life. I wish you lived closer because I am one hell of a crazy train driver and I'd keep you busy. I'm sending you a hug so big that words don't describe it. Immense doesn't cover it. Just know that you are in my heart. Ax

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    1. Ali, I love you. Plain and simple. You are an amazing friend. I totally wish we lived closer too. I would love to be your neighbor and friend. I think we'd have lots of adventures together.

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  2. You'll find strength to do that, Jen. Kids grow and leave parents in one way or another, it's just the way life is. It should be like this. And she needs your support too, it's the best you can do to help her grow.

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    1. I should also add that I left home at 17 to study in another city, my mom worried a lot and missed me and couldn't imagine how I would make it alone. And still, here I am.
      It's hard, it may be painful, but you'll make it too. Be happy for your girl and for the opportunity she has and just .. get yourself busy with other things, I guess. And yeah, a big hug too:)

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    2. This makes me feel SO much better. I'm so glad that you shared this with me. I do want to be happy for her and I need that to be my main focus. It's so hard sometimes, right?

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    3. Yep, it is. But it will be ok. I have a lot a friends with toddlers and they say when they leave kids for the first time in kindergarten it's heartbreaking. Just maybe think about it as a bi-iig kindergarten kind of thing:) You'll miss her, she'll miss you, but she'll learn a lot and live a lot and in the end you'll see her and she'll have so many stories to share.

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  3. This post speaks to me on so many levels. First of all (((HUGS))). This is a new experience for you and on a completely different level, if you will, than your previous goodbyes. This is your baby girl that your are giving to the world. She is a special gift and once she leaves your home life is never going to be the same. I have had four children join the military and sometimes it is yeas that I do not see them. It is hard on a momma's heart. Skylar just left for Bahrain last week for a two-year Navy duty and it wasn't any easier this fourth time to release her to the world knowing that it will be likely that I will not be seeing her for the duration of her time there. I suggested to her that while she may be homesick, I encourage her to take advantage of every opportunity to see the world around here there while she can and to not worry about coming home (obviously we welcome her any time). It is a loss and it is OK to grieve it as so, but what has helped me the most is to be selfless. I have to push aside my immense pain and encourage and support my children in whatever they do. They know that I will always be here for them, but this is their time to try their wings. You have an amazing daughter with a true love to serve and that is a remarkable gift. I will keep you all in my prayers during this next chapter of your life.

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    1. Raechelle, I have no idea how you've done it. And your advice to Skylar is so perfect! I think by keeping busy and filling my life I will feel it less. Thank you for sharing more of your story with me!

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  4. Bless you Jen! We don't have anything like that in out church so I can't even fathom. Prayers for your mom heart!

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    1. Thanks, Christine, for taking the time to leave such sweet words. I think we serve in our congregations and churches in many different ways. Any way we share our testimonies is so wonderful. :)

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  5. Jen I hear you here on so many levels. My youngest daughter and I were so close with her dance - spent almost every single evening at dance practice and weekends at competitions - she was and is the closest of my children to me for this simple reason. She graduated from college (first time) early and took off at 21 to LA to spend a year dancing. Leaving her there almost broke my heart but I knew I had to let her fly and start her own life. She's back now and just graduated from a BSN nursing program and we went down to her graduation. It still breaks my heart every time I leave her - will always hold our times together as precious moments. Hugs - its a growing process for both you and your daughter - all you can do is support her and let her know how much you love her. It's isn't easy for sure! But you have to be proud of yourself for what a wonderful person you have raised! Not everyone is so lucky!

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    1. Your daughter has accomplished so much. No wonder you're so proud of her. I'm sure that helps letting her go knowing she is doing such great things. :)

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  6. I could relate to your post as well, having released three children into the world as adults at various times. I think the best thing I can say is you have to take it one moment and one step at a time, listening to what your soul is telling you to do. And be gentle with yourself. It's lovely that you already recognize how deeply this is affecting you rather than pushing it down and ignoring it. My special-needs daughter left home to live in her own apartment in May of one year and my son went to college that Fall. I had to keep reminding myself that most people don't have to deal with two children leaving at one time and it was okay to be extremely sad about this. Give yourself permission to grieve AND to do what you need to do in order to heal. And thanks for being so brave and vulnerable with your post today. Here is you need me.

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    1. Here IF you need me. :-)

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    2. I admire you so much, Laurie, for the courage you gave your special needs daughter to live on her own. Strive for that courage. Thank you for sharing more of your story with me!

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  7. I can't say good-bye, either. It makes me cry just thinking about it. It's just not something I can do without making a scene. I avoid funerals, even for those I didn't personally know, because the whole idea of good-bye is so emotional for me. All I can do is pray for you and know that some grieving ahead of time can help with the moment that will come, even if we don't want it to. Take care and thank you for sharing.

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    1. Ruth I am VERY much the same way. It's just too painful.

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  8. It is so hard! My daughter left out of state for college back in 2008 and it is just recently I have been able to leave her without shedding a million tears! That is 6 years! Hugs to you! It does not get easier if you have done a good job!

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    1. Oh Leslee, out-of-state college. That is SO far away. :(

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  9. I left my daughter at the airport in 2005. She was moving to Australia to be closer to her boyfriend. My husband convinced me she was too strong-willed for their relationship to last. Weeks later they were married and we didn't get to be there for the wedding - no passports and no money for the flights. Our son took a promotion taking him to WA. I stay focused on looking forward to the next time we see them and their families. You're an amazing mom or she wouldn't have what it takes to face this new part of her life. Start planning her welcome home celebration. Hugs to you.

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    1. Oh my goodness, Pam. I can't even imagine. How hard that must have been for you. Thank you for the hugs and for sharing more of your story with me!

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  10. Big hugs, Jen!! I have a lot of family and friends who are LDS and this is something I think about all the time -- the emotions that the parents must struggle between when they send their kids off. I cannot even imagine it. And I can also understand why it would weigh on you in particular because of your son's passing.

    Izzy and I get emotional a lot in movies or TV shows where the child goes off to college because we know that day is coming. We're not as close as you to that day, nor is that nearly as drastic because we can visit him and he'll come home for holidays, so my heart is definitely going out to you. It's going to be tough. <3

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    1. It's amazing how quickly the time does go, Noell. I'm kind of blown away by the fact that she's not a toddler in diapers any more. :(

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  11. Just wanted to say I love your heart. Thinking of you friend!

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    1. Thank you, Becky! That means a lot coming from someone as good and wonderful as you. :)

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  12. All I can say is I love you Jen. I have no doubt you and Katelyn will always be close no matter how far apart you are. My heart still can't wander too far down memory lane to think what you have experienced but it loves you very much. You are amazingly strong, graceful, and beautiful inside and out.

    Love, Me

    Btw, your picture is GORGEOUS.

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    1. Thank you, Marci. Hope you know how much we love you!

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  13. I cannot even imagine how you feel right now. I would be devestated if my little man left me. He is my heart. Hugs

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    1. Kids do seem to wrap their little fingers rather securely around our hearts.

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  14. Sending you a great big hug Jen!! My oldest just turned 15 and I've been thinking about this for a while, before I know it, she will be planning "her" life without me, and I know it's life and I want to be a grandma, etc, I'm not ready and will not be ready for it, even when we know it will come, and we try to get ready for that moment.. we are not going to feel ready for it.. trust the Lord and ask Him for His guidance, His love and His mercy. He will be with both of you. Enjoy this time with her and treasure them until she returns, in the meantime we will be here to support you and to pray for you!!

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    1. Thanks, Diana! You are right. He is always here for us isn't He? :)

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  15. You'll get through it as you do all of life's other struggles - by simply getting through it. Your heart will ache but you will watch your child go out into the world and be the amazing person you have raised her to be and your heart will smile just a little under the pain of missing her. Hold onto that.

    My heart goes out to you. My daughter will be 9 this year so I know I have some time to wait before I have to watch her go but panic sets in at the mere thought of it just the same. It's how we Mommas are built. We give everything we have to our kids and want to hold them close forever but we must let them go. Let them spread their wings and fly. You can do it. You both can do it. And you'll be okay. Life's experiences prior to this have shown you that.

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    1. Tracey, it's crazy how fast the time goes. Just today I was addressing Kate's graduation announcements. Amazing!

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  16. My heart is breaking for you. I know you will miss your beautiful daughter. My daughter will be leaving for college in a year and I know I'm going to miss her desperately. I will have more opportunities to see her than you will your daughter, so I know it's not quite the same, but I definitely understand a bit of how you feel.

    Can I share something else - a different perspective I've been thinking of lately? I have an older son on the autism spectrum. We don't when, or if, he will be able to move out and live one his own. It's made me realize what a blessing it is to be able to do that, to be able to watch our children grow and begin their adult lives independently. We will always be there for them (and I do hope my daughter will always live close by! :) ), but watching our children grow and leave us, after a fashion, is a good thing, and a blessing. I am in no way trying to minimize your pain and hope you take these words with the love and encouragement I intended.

    {{hugs}} to you.

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