Say Goodbye, Say Hello
Forus, these past Winter months have in many ways been a time of putting things to bed, a time of saying goodbye. It's been a season to make peace with letting go of certain things in our lives, things that we have loved.
As James started "big kid" school this past Fall, it only seemed natural that he would transition to a "big kid" bed. He was still technically sleeping in his original baby crib, though we had converted it into a daybed. Out of the blue, our dear friends, the Stovers (the same who kept James for months after the stroke), offered an extra twin bed frame that they were getting rid of. Andy even came over and helped me quickly disassemble the crib and set up the new bed. I posted the pictures on Craigslist and sold the crib the next day.
A few days later, I rounded the corner into James' room, and nearly felt the breath knocked out of me. The room looked completely different. All the sudden it hit me. The crib was gone, and somehow with it, our baby was gone too.
Around the same time, Katherine finally upgraded her well-loved cellphone to an I-phone. Her friend had taken her to the store and helped her set up the new system. I called her to check in, and it went to voicemail. I expected to hear the long-standing voicemail message of the Katherine from 2007, before her stroke. We never had the heart to change it. Even a year after her stroke, hearing it gave me butterflies in my stomach, but over time, it's become a comforting memorial of sorts, a reminder of a different Katherine with a different voice in a different life. But that day, to my surprise, I didn't hear Katherine's old voice on the voicemail, but rather I heard James' voice say, "this is my Mom's phone, leave a message".
When Katherine arrived home, I felt a little stupid for feeling upset, but I asked her what happened to the old voicemail, why she hadn't saved it. She earnestly replied, "My voice doesn't sound like that anymore, so I decided it was time to move on".
For a moment, I was so pained at the thought of letting go of this seemingly mundane but priceless recording--this auditory snapshot from an old life erased forever. Maybe all the more so because after years, I find myself not being able to easily remember the sound of Katherine's previous voice. I swallowed the lump in my throat and resolved that she was right. After all, fully embracing a new life is impossible without letting go of some of the remnants of our old lives, even dearly loved ones.
Not long ago, James told me out of the blue, "Dad, I don't like hearts." "Why James?" I asked confusedly. "Because hearts break", he said matter-of-factly.
As a parent, those are the moments that sting the most--when you know that your child has glimpsed the reality of this world a bit sooner than you would have liked. Nonetheless, James and C.S. Lewis had it right, "To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken." If the alternative to a broken heart is an "unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable" one, then I suppose the choice is clear, but when our heart has been broken as the result of loving something then having to say goodbye to it, we can't help but question if the love was worth the pain.
Today, Katherine and I kneel beside James' big boy bed, and say our prayers. He closes his eyes and smiles contentedly. He is a boy now, and it is so beautiful to see. Yet we must both fully love these moments and still hold them loosely because these moments will pass quickly too. Katherine prays over her son, in her new, lovely voice, rich with joy and sorrow, and I know it was all worth it.