In three days, my daughter will graduate from college. I don’t know how this is possible, because I was just holding her in my arms yesterday, I swear! I’m so excited and proud I can hardly stand it. And by excited and proud, I mean happy, nervous, ecstatic, sad, joyful, teary, not ready, sooo ready, hopeful, scared, eager, delighted, beaming, distraught heart-broken, elated, worried, impressed, inspired and approximately two thousand other emotions.
Is this how a “normal” Mom feels when her first bird fully flies out of the nest? How do mama birds survive this phenomenon? It’s like a crazy combination of celebration and loss. And let me tell you, I’m kind of sick of loss and I’m sick of 2016. I’m guessing most moms feel this way, but I also suspect my emotions are on steroids this year. I want to gather my family close and protect them from pain and loss, not have them fly away. Selfish, I know. But it’s how I feel. And her Dad would’ve busted every button showing pride for his girl. Oh, he would’ve been so overcome with joy. I wish he could be there as she walks across the stage to accept her college diploma. It’s another moment where joy induces mourning. I pray B remembers how much confidence her Dad had in her. He loved her with all his heart and that love is stored in her heart long after his departure from this earth. It’s a gift she gets to keep forever.
But Saturday is not about me. Saturday is about my girl and celebrating what she’s accomplished. When her Dad died in March, she went back to school just weeks before finals. And she took those finals. She got out of bed, stood up and she tackled life. That’s my girl! She was brave and strong and determined even when her heart was shattered.
Let me tell you a little story from when B was three years old. It was foreshadowing, really. It was summer and we were having a cookout with family visiting from out-of-state. B had recently received the gift of a battery-powered Jeep from several family members. I stored it in a shed behind our house. As we sat down to eat, B asked if she could ride her Jeep. I said no because we were about to eat. I don’t know if you’ve ever parented a 3-yr-old, but it’s one of the toughest ages I’ve ever encountered. So, like a typical 3-yr-old, she opted to not obey and headed for the shed where the Jeep was stored. I decided to ignore her because I knew she wouldn’t be able to open the broken doors on that shed – I could barely open them. Plus – choose your battles, right mamas?
A few minutes later, she had pushed and shoved and somehow opened those doors! No problem, I thought, still deciding to ignore her, because there is absolutely no way she can maneuver that thing out of the shed. It was a cluttered mess in there and it wasn’t possible for her to just jump in the driver’s seat and drive it out. She’d have to lift it to get it out of there. And it was heavy. So I continued to visit with family, ignoring her disobedient act of the hour. And then, all of a sudden, here comes B speeding by our picnic table on that darn Jeep! You should’ve seen the look on her face! Her expression was the preschool equivalent of the middle finger as she blew her strong-willed self right past us. Lord, have mercy.
She’s always been a tenacious trailblazer, that one. And that’s what has led to her latest accomplishment. A college degree in 3.5 years and a dogged determination to attack the future with everything she has. That’s the spitfire that will set the world ablaze, changing it for the better with her compassionate heart, intelligence and leadership skills.
I saw it when she was three. I saw it in how she’s met every one of life’s disappointments as she was growing up. I saw it in March when she didn’t quit, despite the greatest sorrow she’s ever experienced. Grief can be very debilitating, even for the strong ones. But she made it, despite the strong choke hold loss has on her heart and her mind. There aren’t words big enough to convey how much I love her and the amount of joy and pride I have for her. She is going to do amazing things, because that’s who she is. Sure, she’s going to make mistakes. Life is all about mistakes. But she’s not going to let life kick her down. She’s going to get back up and resume the determined pursuit of her every dream. She’s going to be more than ok. Whether she goes on to law school, as she hopes or whether she starts a career first – it doesn’t matter. She’s going to continue to light up the world and change it for the better.
It’s hard relinquishing control and realizing my inability to protect her now. I try to remember that God has always had a plan for her, even before she was born. And His plans for her surpass all of my hopes and dreams for her.
Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
I love her so much and I’m so proud of her– every day, but especially on her graduation day. She’s going to take her future and show it who’s boss. I’ll be back home – praying and cheering her on. I’ll be trusting God to protect her from evil.
Proverbs 22:6 (ESV)
Train up a child in the way (s)he should go; even when (s)he is old (s)he will not depart from it.
And when life tries to tell her she’s not good enough, not strong enough or smart enough? She’s going to strong arm that broken door, get on her Jeep and RIDE, because that’s what a trailblazer does.