O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
I’ve been thinking about these words as I help my girls prepare for their end-of-summer exodus. I know that, in many ways, the first days after my baby has left for college will be as solemn and quiet as those first dark days after a death. We will mourn the loss of our girls, long to hear their laughter, feel the sting of loneliness at mealtimes and evening family time. There will be no giggles interrupting my sleep in the late hours of the night, no fighting sleep as I wait up until curfew to make sure everyone is safely tucked in bed. I will miss the companionship of my now-adult children. I don’t look forward to solitary meals when Ken is away.
On the other hand…
Isn’t this what we’ve been moving toward for the past twenty-three years? Ever since Rebecca, our oldest, was born, haven’t we been raising our three girls to be independent, to forge their own paths, to be the women they were meant to be? Isn’t this the time to let them spread their wings and watch how far they fly?
In our garage stand two piles–one is Morgan’s and the other is Katie’s. Each day, the piles grow. There are tubs of clothes, baskets of linens, shelving units and framed pictures, a toaster oven, and a vacuum cleaner. Each day, the girls’ bedrooms grow a bit larger as well, expanding in size as things are packed or tossed or tucked away for another time. As I walk through the garage or see the childhood treasures being discarded, I refuse to cry, refuse to give in to the desire to hold onto that treasure or unpack that box. These decisions are no longer mine. What they keep, what they give away, what they take with them–these have been carefully weighed and measured. The stark rooms that will be left behind will welcome them home for but a short time more, until another phase begins.
When Rebecca and I cleaned out her old bedroom to turn it into my office, we shed a few tears, but there was a lot of laughter and happy reminiscing among the building of plans for her future. I am reminded that, in the blink of an eye, my other girls will be leaving their rooms for the last time, returning home as visitors, bringing future husbands and bursting with dreams and plans for what is yet to come.
Over the months and years ahead, we will face many changes and many challenges. Hearts will be broken. Dreams will be crushed. We will say goodbye to loved ones in a handful of ways. Loneliness will pervade. Doubt will intrude. We will all learn to live a new normal over and over again. The first night Ken and I sit at a long, empty table, surrounded by silence, a new countdown will begin. The day will come when the kitchen will be filled once again with voices and laughter. Each season of grief will blossom into a season of hope and a season of joy.
My heart may feel like it is dying when we drive away, just Ken and me, without our baby girl, but we will close this chapter knowing that the pages will continue to turn. The story isn’t over. The life we have lived for so long is ending, but its death will breathe new life, a life full of promise. A life that will renew itself with each engagement, wedding, birth, and Baptism. A life that will only get better and better.
And so I ask, Empty Nest, where is thy sting?
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What I was writing about a year ago this week: A Journey of Faith.
Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me, Whispering Vines, and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her follow up, Island of Promise is a reader favorite. Amy’s children’s book is The Greatest Gift. The suspense novel, Summer’s Squall, and all of Amy’s books, can be found online and in stores. Her latest novel, Island of Promise, was recently awarded First Prize by the Oklahoma Romance Writer’s Association as the best Inspirational Romance of 2018 and was awarded a Gold Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards 2019 for Inspirational Fiction. It is the 2019 winner for Best Inspirational Fiction in the RWA Golden Quill Contest, Best Romance in the American Book Awards, and a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award of Fiction. Amy’s 2019 work, The Devil’s Fortune, is based, in part, on her family history and is garnering many five star reviews.
Book Three of the Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Hope, will be released this Friday! Order your copy today!
Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017), Island of Promise (2018).