Today is a significant milestone for my family. My second child, Catherine, graduates from high school.
I cannot say enough how much I enjoy being her dad. She is such a creative, energetic, joyful, intelligent, gorgeous young woman. A little over 18 years ago, Debbie and I brought her home as a tiny little baby. Watching her grow from an infant into a young adult has been a wondrous experience filled with laughter, tears, prayers, delight and regrets. I love the person she has become and look forward to watching God use her in his world. She easily fills any room with her abundant exuberance. I cannot imagine a day without her smile and presence in our lives.
But Catherine’s graduation, as with Michael’s graduation two years ago, forces me to reflect on the ongoing changes occurring in my family. In five short years, all four of my children will have graduated high school.
I remember when my children were very young. Their adulthood seemed so far in the future that I rarely thought about it. And now in what seems like a flash, that future is here. My cherished babies are gone, replaced by equally cherished emerging adults.
I’m amazed at how fast this part of our family’s life has gone. Yet, more startling than the quickness of time’s passage is the permanence. It’s gone. My babies turned into toddlers, went to school, grew up and are sprinting toward their adult lives. Each day brings Debbie and me closer to when we have to say “Good-bye” to each one as their hearts transition from our family and home to begin their own.
Over the past few years, if I could have been granted one wish, I would have asked for time to stop so that my family could be suspended as is. I would have given virtually anything to spend the rest of my life with my family. But then after having such a thought, I would immediately realize how selfish such a wish is. My children need to grow and become who God created them to be, even if that means I had to let them go. In fact, it requires that I do let them go. And I absolutely hate it.
In several hours, my daughter will step over this threshold into adulthood. And I will sit in the stands and cheer for her. Afterwards, I will hug and kiss her and celebrate her entrance into this new phase of life with unspeakable pride and joy.
But right now, in the shadow of this looming moment, I miss my little girl. In my heart and memories, I hold my little baby in my arms. I feel her tiny hand wrap around my finger. I feel her curl on my lap to watch TV with me. I watch her play with her dolls and dress up as a princess. I see her twirl and dance and sing. I hear her say, “I love you, Daddy.”
I love you too, Sweetie. I love you too. I don’t want to let you go. But I will.