I’m sitting in 1st grade with six students taking exams. Two new students who will enter Jefferson next year, and four of my own. I want to hold this moment in my mind, in my heart. I know this is the last time I may ever see them. And regardless of how hard the year has been, I love these children. Their imperfection and squirreliness is a reflection of my own. You never know how long you have to hold them, to love on them. One moment, they’ve been entrusted to your keeping, and the next, they’re gone. “Will you miss us, teacher?” one of them asks me. “Yes, of course! I will miss you so much,” I reply.
I have never been good at letting go, since saying goodbye to the very first child who ever called me mommy. “Rebekah, they don’t need you,” my father says. “They’ll be fine without you.” I know he’s right. They don’t need me. But maybe I need them.
They begin to leave one by one as they finish their tests. “Bye, kiddo,” I say, wishing just for a moment that they weren’t too old for hugs. But they’re teenagers and I can’t pick them up to hold them the way I would if they were five years old. I’m like that mom who has suddenly realized her kids are growing up, closer to being adults than children. It’s silly, I know.
I think my father’s words stem in part from the fact that he is ready for me to move on. He tells me there are other people for me to love. I know it, too, but it does not make saying goodbye any easier. There is always room for more people, but they never replace those who are already in your heart.
I remember clearly a conversation I had with one of my professors just before leaving university. The time we’re living in is a season, she said. Where we are, what we’re doing. It’s for a season and soon enough we’ll find ourselves in another season. I’ve thought about that often throughout the past year and a half. It has helped bring perspective to difficult situations, and gratefulness to good ones.
Everywhere I go, everything I do, it’s for a season. It’s not forever, even though I’d often like to think some things will be forever. Some people, some places. Yet, I have to understand that this brings both comfort and reminders to be thankful. The difficulty won’t last. The sweet moments won’t either, and so I must learn to be abundantly grateful for them and not take a single one for granted. This moment that I have with you where we are laughing and sharing life, doing one of our favorite things, it may not pass again.
My grandfather passed away two weeks ago, and his leaving reminded me of how close I came to missing an opportunity. I saw him last during Christmas break when I was home for the holidays. It was a lovely visit, a perfect last memory. But I almost didn’t go. I had a busy schedule since I was only home for a short time, and I thought that I’d have plenty of other opportunities to see him. How glad I am that my mom was insistent!
We can never tell how long a time we’ll have to share with those around us. What you thought would be years of time may suddenly turn into mere weeks. I may not be ready for this season to end, but as it gives way to the next, I want to remember to always love. I want to keep my eyes open and take advantage of every opportunity, because no matter what season I find myself in, it will always be a time to love.