At my aunt and uncle’s home, seven children and three adults gathered together each evening for supper. I have never seen such a large table. As life and time passed, it seemed sadly poetic that the table shrunk with each child’s departure. When I unexpectedly became pregnant with our last child, my husband paced back and forth, looked into the dining room and said, “We’re going to need a bigger table.” That was a good day.
Incredibly, we are now facing our middle son’s last year of high school. Once again, I am standing at an old, familiar threshold. He will be our third to leave; three out of five. It is astounding to me how different this goodbye feels from the other two. I suppose, though, that it makes sense: Our children are so different from each other they could be separate species.
I am hesitant to share my feelings with him about this. I don’t want to hold him back or make him sad. He is already questioning what it will feel like to be on his own, and I don’t want to make that worse. If I could speak coherently, I would tell him that each time someone leaves our family, I break a little.
It seems as if God takes our wholeness, our oneness, shakes it in his great hand and, tossing it in the air, quietly waits for the reconfiguration. Each time, I feel as if I cannot bear it. But I have found that God doesn’t let us diminish; he beckons us to shine beyond this story so we might add in-laws, experiences and maybe even grandchildren.
Yes, my aunt and uncle’s table became a miniature of its former self, but my aunt’s funeral services could barely contain the numbers who mourned her. What she and my uncle began had spilled out of their home and into the world.