“Just face it; you’re going to be a blubbering wreck.” It was a summer-long mantra chanted by friends, day after day after day.
And it stood to reason, really. We were headed to drop off our eldest child, Allie, at college for the first time. Even the words “drop off” seemed odd. This was no play date. No school function. This particular drop-off would create a nine-hour chasm between us. Was it a chasm that could be bridged with phone calls, Facebook, Twitter, and texting?
Our car was packed, floor to ceiling, with stuff. Mountains of stuff. Stuff I’d tripped over throughout the house for weeks. Yet somehow, seeing it all packed in the car was different. On the living room floor it said, “What a mess.” Loaded in the car, it said, “Put on your seatbelt; this is really happening.”
Funny thing, I wasn’t really all that sad about it. Sure, I was going to miss her terribly, and I knew that on a daily basis I would feel a weight on my heart that a part of us was missing. But I was so sure that where she was going was her call that I was excited for her. And that made it okay.
Her Orientation — or Mine?
Yes, freshman orientation was emotional. But I wasn’t the prophesied “blubbering wreck.” As a matter of fact, the whole thing became more okay with each passing hour. I witnessed the joy of new friends being made. I listened to speakers encourage the freshmen to open their minds and hearts to embrace all the opportunities that the Lord has prepared for them during the next four years. To give him the chance to help them grow into Godly men and women who can take on the world for Christ. Wow.
In fact, the only time I actually did cry during the weekend was in Allie’s dorm bathroom — when I saw the notes posted on the mirror: “Be still and know that I am God.” No, my tears weren’t tears of sadness, but tears of gratitude: She really gets to go here? A momentary flashback to my “pagan days” in college told me that this was going to be different for her.
A Mom’s Prayers
And suddenly orientation was over. With a final hug that would have to satisfy me until Parents’ Weekend, Allie and I said goodbye. I had tears in my eyes, but held it together. But I felt, well, unsettled. I was, after all, about to get in a car and drive nine hours away from our precious first-born. That’s unsettling.
So I told my husband, “I need to pray in the chapel before we go.”
We entered the chapel, my eyes fixated on the tabernacle as I kneeled down before our Lord and opened my heart.
And Jesus spoke to my heart with that voice that isn’t a voice — you know, the one that reaches us as clearly as if he were sitting atop the tabernacle, legs swinging down, looking into our eyes and soul.
“You know, you’re confused about a few things,” he gently chided. Leave it Jesus to break that to me gently. “You see, you came here to drop her off thinking your job as mother was about to take a step back, to diminish.”
A stepping back. A diminishing. I thought, “Exactly. I know I may struggle with it, but I need to face that, in so many ways, she’s on her own now. She will need to make decisions on her own for the first time in her life.”
The head shake. “Just think about that for a minute: She will need to make decisions on her own for the first time in her life. And now is the time you’re going to step back? How much more she needs you now. She needs prayers. Not just any prayers. A mom’s prayers. Total coverage. Every day.
Your job, your mission, is about to expand in ways that you can’t even imagine. Are you ready for it? Are you tuned in? Are you prepared to spend more time with me — in daily Mass, in adoration, praying rosaries, novenas, whatever it takes?”
I walked out of the chapel, in complete peace. No, my mission has not diminished. It has grown in a new, unexpected way. My daughter may not be living in my house for most of the year, but I am her mother — always. I’m called more than ever to do all that I can to help lead this child of God to heaven one day. That’s a forever vocation. And that makes it more than okay. It makes it beautiful.
Editor’s Note: This essay was published as part of the annual Catholic College Guide in the Fall 2010 issue of Faith & Family Magazine.