Because my children's dad lives in California, I have made many trips to the airport to watch my children leave the safety of my arms and fly into the vast, unknown, sky.....into God's hands. It is always traumatic for me. Even when said child is almost 17 yrs old.
Prior to 9/11, it was common to see crowds of people gathered around the gates of the airport saying goodbye and welcoming loved ones home. Post 9/11, nobody is allowed to go to the gate except for the person traveling. However, when children are flying alone you can request a 'pass' that will allow one person, usually the parent (me), to escort the child to the gate and watch their flight leave. This is both, good and bad. Good because I must see the plane leave the ground and continue to watch it until it is no longer visible to the human eye and bad because the entire time I am watching, I am sobbing. Not just a little tear trickling down, but dramatic. Hollywood. this. is. the. stuff. movies. are. made. of. sobbing. Oh, and audibly praying at the same time. Yea.
This morning my eldest daughter, Sammie, left for California. She is only going for a month instead of the usual three months, but still. It's traumatic. You know. It's the whole 'letting go' thing....again (insert eye roll here). We checked her in and started for the gate when I realized that I had forgotten to ask for a pass to escort her to the gate. We went back to the check-in desk and asked the lady if I could please have a pass. She asked how old Sam was and I told her she is 16. This woman, who is in the customer service industry, then looked at me and said this: "If she can drive herself to the airport, we are pretty sure she can find her own gate!" "Next in line please." In the most condesending tone EVER! Oh yea. I was miffed. I felt my 'old' self, the mouthy 'old' self, the before I found Jesus 'old' self, begin to rise up in me. I stuffed it back down and walked away. It is soooo NOT what I wanted to do. I think it physically pained me to not say anything.
So, today was a milestone. A glimpse into my not-so-distant future. I said goodbye to my baby and watched her walk, on her own, towards security. All of the sudden she looked so grown up. Where has the time gone? I remember holding her little hand when she was a child and walking her down the ramp to her gate. Now, in place of my little girl, a young lady stands. Suddenly the song 'There Goes My Life' by Kenny Chesney popped into my head (which is really strange because I don't listen to country music) and I could feel the bitter sting of tears begin to well up in my eyes. I stood at the top of the ramp and watched her proceed, like a grown up, through security. She knows me well, so she stopped about half way there, turned around, smiled, waved, and blew me a kiss. I watched her until she was no longer visible to my human eyes. She is now in God's hands.
It occurred to me today that this was the first step in letting her go. Today she boarded a plane alone. In a couple of years she will go to college....alone. She will meet the boy she will marry. She will have children. She will live her life...not alone, but without me. At least for the most part.
My empty hand aches and longs for the days when her tiny fingers were interlaced with mine. Now it is God who holds my hand...and hers as we walk through this next phase of life. The same Hands that knit her together in my womb. How awesome is that? While my heart still aches, it also rejoices as I slowly let go of one of my most precious gifts and give her back to her Father........ who loves her even more than I.
I love You, Lord. Please take good care of our girl.