Off to College

Gail DeMasi // Tales From the Trenches


August 24  

August is back-to-school month for many, including the new freshman class for colleges. Although I have twelve times brought an entering college student to their new life, I never experienced the milestone “life event” that many other moms have endured. Maybe it was because I still had kids back home. I did feel the emptiness of the empty seat at our table, and I confess that I always missed the one who had moved on, yet my life did not feel sadly altered.

I don’t think this is how my oldest daughter is experiencing the upcoming departure of her two young adults. Looking at her, I am moved by the reality of this being a moment in time whereby her life is going to be dramatically changed. She has raised her two children for twenty-two years, and she was the single responsible parent for many of them.

I am aware that my daughter’s dropping off her two at different schools, both quite far from our New England countryside, is going to be a bona fide, unavoidably painful event. Painful as in the heartache of a mom who, like most of us, often wonders if she has “done enough.” Or taught them all they need to “get by,” no, to do better than “get by.” Has she been able to bring them to a place of healing from the early years? Has she raised them well enough in the faith, which will be their rock of comfort and compass for life? How can it be for herto be, seemingly overnight, without her two babies, even though they are no longer babies . . . yet always will be hers?

She is breaking my heart! I understand the flood of thoughts, the guilt, the questioning, the angst of “letting go” (in what world does that ever really happen?). She does not need encouraging words nor spiritual counsel about God’s plan. She does not need me to make comments like, “Don’t worry;” “It’s all okay;” “You’ve done what you could.” Those platitudes are meaningless and fill the emotional space between us with fluff. I want to hold her and let her cry; I want to affirm that her life is indeed going to be different; I want to comfort her in a way that lets her know that I understand. I really do understand.

All of us have life changing eventssome are traumatic, some are expected, some bring about changes we could never have imagined which end up being a blessing. What matters between a mother and daughter or a mother and son is to have a safe and trusted place to hold tenderly the vulnerability that forms us more deeply in the journey of love and gift.

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