I am preparing for my 18 year-old son to leave in ten days. He will be living in another city for 2 years, doing missionary service. We will not have the same access to each other that we have had. Few phone calls. Limited email. No simple, “hey, what are you doing, want to go _____ together?” I’m supportive of the experience that he is about to have. I can also feel every heart string that I have being tugged.
The preparation is for both him and me. For him, trying to help him be grounded in what will be quite a life-style change. His days will be very full. Teaching. Studying. Taking care of himself. Learning to live with others. This is an initiatory time, which my good friend reminds me is a time for three things to happen, as path to more spiritual, emotional, and physical maturity. One is separation — from community (and into another). Yes, this really tugs. Two is an ordeal — challenge, the working of his soul, the circumstances that will likely throw him into a spin of identity. Tug again. Hope, hope, hope he will come through. Three is a return — to the community from which he left. A return as a changed being.
The experience is not uncommon. He’s not the first. Nor the last. Families go through this. People go through this. I’m just trying to help it be a bit more conscious.
In times like these, it is parting words that I find myself stretching to find and to share. And to hope help. It’s the heart of one person reaching out to the heart of another. Dad to son. “You’ll never be alone” comes to mind. “I’m proud of you” is another. “The journey is for others. The journey is also for you.” “Be kind to yourself; be kind to others.” “Remember the prayer that is 15 minutes of simple silence.” “Figure out the moment in front of you. Most of the time you don’t need to figure out anything more than that.”
It is times like these, when these bits of advice and remembering, are really close to the surface. When the tears well in eyes, and leak down my cheeks. Perhaps that is the gift of times like these — the words and emotions that pull us into the deepest parts of our relationships.