I’ve been cleaning tonight. I decided to face the inevitable. I hadn’t been up to Timothy’s room in the last couple of days and so I decided to go up… to stand there… and then to sit among his stuff. It was interesting to spend time there — sort of assessing the life by what’s left behind, or to see what’s been important to him. One wall of the small bedroom is lined with bookshelves and on them are rows of books… dozens of missionary biographies and commentaries among a variety of other manuals, Bible studies and, generally, anything that pertains to evangelism, to missions, studying the Word and to the walk of faith.
On the floor were receipts, packaging and tags from last minute purchases. Some single socks. He’d removed the sheets and bedding and had some stacks of pants and shirts for the brothers to rummage through. and And then there is a small wooden train… miniature cars that stretch the length of one of the shelves. On the desk are gifts from Mexico and Africa and there are seashells. And a beach hat. He travels light. I smiled again at what was so obviously important and not imortant to him all his life — it was never a lot of stuff, never collections or showy things. I couldn’t decide what to pack away in the rubbermaid bins Wes brought home this afternoon for me to use for packing — I had asked him to bring three or four – now I see I won’t need all of them. I was going along systematically putting into the bins things I knew he’d likely want to look through someday – cards, pictures and some important papers. I know it might seem soon to be doing this, but in a family with this many youngers, it’s best to get important things put away before they walk away.
I decided to keep a few outfits in case Timothy needs them when he returns — though he had asked me to just let the other boys have all of his stuff — somehow I wasn’t ready to see that happen. Things were all going smoothly as if he were returning in ten minutes and then I was struck with the thought that he was not coming back soon and will likely never come to live at home again — the reality of the permanence of all of this is suddenly overwhelming. I thought: omygoodness – what? is this for real? (I know this happened when our oldest boys left home… but that was well over nine years ago — and they live +/- ten minutes away!)
I decided to take a break. As I made my way downstairs, I could smell the delicious aroma of fresh chocolate chip cookies. Mmmmm, mmm, mmmmm. Ahhh… another boy has mastered great cookies! I smiled… sort of a melancholy smile as it dawned on me that the day would come that I would be cleaning this boy’s room, too. I don’t know how many times I need to be reminded that this activity of launching children has happened and will happen several more times. I realized again that motherhood means lots goodbyes. Keenly aware once again that no matter what: time slips away quickly and we must let them go… we hold the babies in our arms for a little while; we hold their hands for a season; we hold them in our prayers every day but we hold them in our hearts forever.
I’ve spent a bit of time mulling over a conversation I had with a young mom some months ago – a woman I don’t know but I felt a bit of kinship with her through the course of our brief conversation. She was lamenting the plight of young mothers and the heavy load of each day. She was feeling overwhelmed and uninspired — overworked and unprepared for the task of motherhood and homekeeping. While she talked, she commented a number of times that she so looked forward to the days ahead when her children would be older and things would be easier — days when she wouldn’t be so tired and the children wouldn’t be so hard to take care of… I told her the same thing that I told a mama just last night: It goes so fast. You may not think so today and I know you’re real tired, but hang on — press on — it really does go so fast.
And, I’m thinking it really doesn’t get easier.
It gets different, maybe, but it doesn’t get easier.
No, I didn’t tell her that. But I should have.
I think that’s why we walk by faith and not by sight… for the days that aren’t easier.