My First Goodbye

Photo Credit: Jerry Kiesewetter

Photo Credit: Jerry Kiesewetter

One year ago, almost exactly to the day, I said my first goodbye.

On August 19th, 2017, I said goodbye to my firstborn son as I left him at college for the very first time.

I had prepared myself for months - to say this goodbye. With every item I bought, and every box I packed, I was preparingpreparing him for his new life out of my nest, and preparing my heart for him to leave it.

There was a dreaded finality to this goodbye.  As my son Kolbe opened the chapter of adulthood, the chapter of childhood would have to be closed. I wasn’t just saying goodbye to my sweet boy. I was saying goodbye to the sweetest of seasons - all of his growing up years in our home. My time of raising him had come to an end, never to be again.  

This goodbye was everything I’d prepared him for, but nothing I was ready for.

What mom is ever ready to let go and say goodbye?

And what good is there is goodbye? My son was good and ready to spread his wings and fly. I just wasn’t ready to let him.

So I prepared. Oh, how I prepared. But nothing can prepare you to say goodbye.

I also planned. Oh, how I planned - exactly how I would let him go.

And what I learned the very hard way is that sometimes we have to let go of letting go.

My heart still races, and my eyes still sting with pain as I remember what happened one year ago, the night before Kolbe’s move in day, when all the plans I had made began to unravel.

Late that evening we received the shocking news that the brand new apartment complex Kolbe was supposed to move in to (the very next morning at 9:30am!) did not receive its certificate of occupancy from the city.

So upon arrival, all students would be able to move in their boxes, but that was it. After that they would be escorted back out of the building, unable to return until the city gave clearance. And no one knew how long that would take. Possibly days.

Excuse me? This can’t be happening. This must be some kind of cruel joke. I have a goodbye to say, and this is no way to say it.

How could I possibly say goodbye to my first child at his first college in his first home (away from home) under these circumstances? And then, leave him on his own at some hotel, knowing that when he finally could move in, I wouldn’t be there to help him?

That’s not how this was supposed to be.

All of my hopes and dreams for the perfect move in day were washed away in one clean swoop. And all I was left with was a nightmare.

This was NOT the plan. This was FAR from the plan. This was not how I had prepared myself to let go, and yet God was asking me to let go of even that. To let go of letting go.

How could God ask that of me?

Kolbe was taking the news really well. In fact, I think he saw it as some kind of adventure. Me? This was no adventure. It was a walk through the valley of sorrow and death. I felt like I was dying inside. So was my dream. Grief overwhelmed me. I simply wasn’t going to the get the goodbye I planned.

And what made it all worse, was the day I had hoped would be all about him was becoming all about me. This goodbye had become all about me.

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.
Proverbs 19:21

Many were the plans in this mama’s heart - for her first goodbye to her firstborn son. But few of them came to be.  My plan for my son’s move in day included me being there for every single minute of it. From moving in the very first box, to hanging the very last picture on the wall. Sadly, my purpose was all about me and my needs.

I did get to move in boxes, and I did get to make his bed (with all the cool bedding I had bought him over the summer, including three throw pillows. I know. What boy needs throw pillows????) But that was about it.

God had a different plan, and it wasn't about me. It still feels raw to admit that. In fact, His plan included other moms stepping in to do for Kolbe what I couldn’t be there to do, but so desperately wanted to do.  God had a higher purpose, and it included me missing out, so that whatever God had for Kolbe, he wouldn’t miss.

And as I look back on that day, I honestly still can’t make sense of it all, or why it had to be the way it was. But one thing I’ve learned is that sometimes we have to let go - of letting go. (or how we thought we would)

I felt forced to let go too soon, denied the chance to go back and do it fully - the way I had hoped and planned. God asked me to let go of letting go, with no explanation as to why.

I still have some unanswered questions, but I’ve seen glimpses of God’s greater purpose. Glimpses of the story He is writing, including a few moments of redemption along the way. 

And though I didn't have the eyes to see it then, I can see it so clearly now...  I felt so unprepared, but Kolbe was prepared!  I wasn't ready, but that boy was more than ready!  Maybe I didn't get what I thought I needed to close one chapter, but Kolbe had everything he needed to open this new one. He had our love, our support, and our confidence in him. 

Yes, this wasn't anything I had planned for, but I was beholding everything I had PRAYED for.  My son was ready to let go and fly - and TAKE ON what would become one of the most transforming years of his life!  And THAT is all that matters.

In preparing for my first goodbye, I had written the story differently.  But God is the Author and the Finisher of every story, and I know His purpose is greater and higher than mine could ever be. And with His own story in mind - both for Kolbe and me - He will always write straight, even with crooked lines.

And through it all, I know He is doing what only He can do - working all things for good.

For in every goodbye, as heart wrenching as they can be, God truly can bring the most surprising GOOD.