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Adjusting to the Empty Spaces

Today is January 10, 2019. It is 3am.

Two weeks ago I arrived in Texas to move my daughter into the next phase of her life. Accompanied by husband, my daughter and my dog Charlie, our little caravan arrived – my husband in my daughter’s car, everyone else in mine, with both cars loaded to the hilt – the modern covered wagon. The move was originally slated for March, but due to a surprise job offer, our time table shifted.

My daughter was ecstatic. She had looked forward to the move for some time and was beyond ready for the change. My husband and I, though both happy and excited for her and the next phase of her journey, were less so. She is the last of my three children to leave home, the first and only of my husband. There have been several crying jags over the last few months as I acclimated to the idea of her being over a thousand miles away. Overall, I’ve been handling it with some degree of success. As my daughter’s schedule now fills with new classes, new people and new experiences, mine is filling too. Lots of good stuff happening all around.

But there are these moments…

Moments in time and space that used to be filled with carpool, kids and activity. In these moments, it hits hard that she’s gone and a significant chapter of my life has ended. For almost twenty-eight years, my mind has been full of the cares of young lives depending on me. It began with my boys, twin sons I gave birth to shortly after turning nineteen, who were joined by my daughter eight years later. My days were full as most mothers’ are, but it took getting a little older to realize just how quickly time was passing.

These moments held laughter and joy, arguments and tears, worry and wonder. Of course, there is still worry at times – I am a mother after all – but much of the responsibility has lifted off of my shoulders and shifted firmly to those of my children. As a young mom, on days when I was so tired after being up all night with sick children and no time stop to rest, I thought this time would be a relief of weight when it came. Don’t get me wrong…it has been a lighter load with regard to my schedule and items on my to-do list. There is still joy as well, as I watch all of my kids learn and become and grow into what they aspire to be.

But there are these moments.

Moments when I walk past her bedroom and see the empty space on her bed where her beloved teddy bear Bentley sat – her first ever gift given to her by her dad, a little something he picked up in London while she was still in utero. Moments when I walk past the empty space on the kitchen wall where the dry-erase calendar displaying her schedule hung that now hangs in Texas. Moments when I notice the empty space on the counter where her vitamins sat so she wouldn’t forget them. Moments when I go check her closet for laundry to be washed, only to be met with empty space.

Little habits and everyday events that remind me that she is no longer here.

There is a part of me that wants to fill the empty spaces however I can to stop the ache, but a wiser part of me knows there is nothing I can do to fill the space and even the pain has something to teach me. So I sit with the empty spaces.

There is an old saying, “You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.” I don’t believe that’s always true. Over the last couple of months, I became acutely aware of the spaces that were beginning to take shape and grow as my daughter stepped up, intent on being responsible for herself and her life. She took the lead in a way that would make any mama proud, but I was hyper-aware that she was becoming less dependent on me by the moment, taking up less space in my days.

My daughter and I have one of those Gilmore Girl mom-daughter, freakishly close types of relationships. She commented more than once that the only thing that would make the Texas move perfect would be for her dad and me to move there too. Alas, that is not an option, nor do I want it to be. As much as I miss her, this is her life and I want her to be able to live it fully – to prove herself to herself.

As for me, I get to start my new job today. I’m returning to the campus where I received my degree four short years ago to teach, to give back some of what I received there. My days are filling up with new responsibilities, new people, new experiences.

As for the empty spaces, I’ll let them be for now. I’ll sit with them from time to time and learn what they have to teach.

As one door closes, another opens. Such is life.

Love and light to all of you.

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