It was still dark out this morning as I rummaged through the cabinet in search of a mug I felt like using. Moving several out of the way, I found an old one tucked back in the corner. It was white, with what used to be a gold handle, now with a only few traces of it’s former glimmer due to much use. On the front was a floral arrangement in the shape of an “M” and every bit of it reminded me of the small boy who gave it to me.
I miss him. I kept thinking time would erase the dull ache in my heart, but it hasn’t. I don’t think love for someone is something we can ever fully eradicate. Once it has begun, it will always be. Whether it manifests itself in butterflies and laughter, or aches and bittersweet longing.
Being a nanny and a teacher has made that much clear.
As I sipped my coffee out of the loved mug this morning, memories slowly played through my mind. Hours pacing the hallway bouncing the baby to sleep. Dark and early mornings packing school lunches and laying out clothes. Scurried afternoons chauffeuring to gymnastics and swim lessons. My sweaty shirt when he dosed off in my lap after hard play on the swing set. My sore arms from lugging the infant carrier up and down the apartment stairs. The overwhelming love that filled my heart each time I kissed them goodnight. The heartbreak when I pulled him on my lap and explained that I had to leave. The last time I saw his little hand waving at me from across the parking lot. The tears that fell when I opened the giftbag in the car to find that mug and a small note.
“To Miss. Madelyn. I love you forever.”
Life is such a heart wrenchingly beautiful thing, is it not?
As I drove away for the first time, letting go of two children I’d come to love more than I thought possible, I didn’t realize how many more goodbyes were in store. Charles Dickens wasn’t wrong, “Life is made of ever so many partings welded together.” Since then I’ve wondered, how many goodbyes can one say without losing the ability to ever say hello again?
We wish we could keep those we love clutched in our our hands. We wish little baby hands never left ours. We wish hugs at the airport never ended. We wish the last high five with the coach wasn’t the end. We wish the student walking out of our classroom would walk right back in tomorrow morning. We wish the solid line on the monitor would peak, that we’d get one more heartbeat, and then another. We wish that bedrooms were never cleaned out, farewells never bid, and graves never filled.
We wish they would stay. But they don’t. They leave. We leave. Goodbyes are unfortunately a very real and very miserable reality.
What do we do when the ones we love slip out of our hands? We cry. We dry our tears. We tell our souls that though they are no longer in our hands, they are always in His. We hold the mug they left us, and we feel the pain of their absence. Then we thank Him for every moment we got with them, and we trust that His hands are safer and better than ours.
We ask Him for what we need to keep saying goodbye, because all loves but His will include parting. The beauty of it though, is that each time we pull up to the airport and unload the luggage with tears in our eyes, each time we kiss the baby’s head before walking out, each time we watch the student leave on the last day of school, each time we hold a hand beside a hospital bed, we will find that He’s given just what we need. He won’t take away the pain. He won’t cause the tears to cease. But He will provide a way through the pain, and one day, He’ll wipe the tears away. In the meantime, in every parting, He remains.
We ask Him for what we need to keep saying hello, because as long as He has us here, we are called to love the ones He puts in our lives. We cannot withhold love for fear of the pain it may cause. We love, and trust that if pain will be part of this love, He will give us just what we need, just when we need it.
That’s how we press on. With Him upholding us, we can feel deeply the love we have, and the sorrow that so often comes with it. With Him at our side, we can laugh with joy in moments of togetherness, and weep with heartache when the times come to say goodbye. With Him, we can keep on. We can press forward. We can yearn with hope and surety for the day when His people will bid partings farewell, because we know this isn’t the end of the Story.
We can keep saying hello, and we can keep saying goodbye, because His plans are perfect and His grace is sufficient.
Because when those we love leave our hands, they remain in His.