Rearview Mirror Goodbyes

Even after a dozen years I can still remember it clearly. Looking in my car’s rearview mirror, I watched my daughter standing on the sidewalk, looking after me as I drove away from her college campus.

Like many other parents have done, I’d checked her in, got her settled, and with a flight to catch, I’d left her to figure out how to make it on a campus thousands of miles from home. We’d seemed ready for this moment. But what teen is completely ready to move away even though they think they are? What parent can actually let go?

She got smaller as I traveled further down the road and I wondered if she was feeling as bereft as I was. I realized my life as a parent had just experienced a paradigm shift. I was going home and she wasn’t. My rules and curfews would make no difference now. Her new freedom came with the highest level of personal responsibility she’d ever faced. She’d answer for herself now.

Our final hours together were a blur of moving boxes and my jumbled advice about laundry, banking, dorm room living, and staying healthy. Now as I watched her diminishing form in my rearview mirror why hadn’t I told her how proud I was of her and how amazing this new chapter could be?

I missed my chance for the right goodbye. If I could do it again, I’d tell her—

You’ve learned to see with more than your eyes—you look into people’s hearts and know if they really care. This vision will help you find your new friends—and likely, they’ll be friends for life.

You’re courageous to move thousands of miles from home. You’ve learned that stepping out is your first step forward. You’ve learned that you don’t need to see the whole road as long as you know you’re on the right one.

Although I won’t be here, part of my heart remains. Besides God, no one cares more and loves you more deeply. And one thing your old mom never learned was how to say goodbye to someone she loves and has to leave behind.

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