I practiced his absence a hundred times during his senior year, when he was at musical practice, when he went to a friend’s house, when he lived in staff housing at camp, but this is different. I won’t see my son in a few hours. In fact, I won’t see him for days. There may come a time very soon that I don’t see him for weeks, a thought I’m just not ready to handle.
I’m grateful for the times this past year that I thought to myself, ‘Hunter needs to go to college,’ because I don’t feel that way right now, and I need to remember that I had those moments, that, at some point, I knew this was the right thing, the logical, healthy next step.
I had big plans for his room, you know, and told him so. Promising not to wipe away all evidence of his existence, I told him that I was going to paint to cover up all of the marks his skateboards and guitar made on the wall. I told him that I was going to get a new comforter for his bed to replace the faded and worn one I bought at a garage sale when he was five, the one he once said couldn’t sleep without. I told him I was going to rearrange his pictures, take some down, add my own—properly spaced!—and make the room suitable for guests.
Amused, he smiled and said, “Okay, Momma, whatever you want.”
But Hunter’s been gone for three days now, and I can’t even bring myself to make his bed. His pillowcase smells like his hugs, after all, and I want to pretend that he just got up and is at school with his sister.
His room is eerily clean. I can see the carpet, and I hate it. The walls are bare, and I find myself pining for the over-shellacked John Wayne clock that never worked, the Jolly Roger flag with a mustache, and the Beatles poster that hung on the wall off-center because he wouldn’t let me hang it.
Whatever I want? I WANT YOU BACK, SON! But I can’t have you. God has big plans for your life that include your being exactly where you are right now, meeting the people you’re meeting, learning the things that you’re learning, and being challenged in the ways you’re being challenged. He reminds me of this every time my eyes begin to burn with tears, every time my heart squeezes with the pain of separation from my precious baby boy, every time the enemy tries to tell me that I missed something along the way.
Oh, I go ahead and cry—you know I do—and my heart still aches—it takes my breath away sometimes—and I don’t think I’ll ever stop thinking of things that I could have done better, but I find peace in this. I did the best I knew how in the moment. I loved you with everything that I had and pointed you to the Father at every turn, sometimes in desperation, sometimes in anger, sometimes in fear, but always with confidence, knowing that He loves you more than I–although I’ll admit I can’t imagine a love that big!
Somehow, I’ll make it through this transition, Hunter. You will, too. You may be fine with it already. (But don’t tell me just yet if you are! Haha!) I’ll wash your sheets, make your bed, and paint the walls…I’ll even stop turning the lights on and off when I think you would have.
In the meantime, in your absence, I’ll choose to rest in His presence and let Him bring me peace. I pray you’ll do the same, sweet boy, just like we practiced.