Lonely and quiet is the norm at our house lately. (And clean) Having all the children gone has been a shock; it happened too fast. I’m thinking of all those exhausted evenings when I wanted to run away when they were little. I wish I had enjoyed them more. I didn’t realize how short my time with them would be; at the time I could see no end. Mike told me the other day that he was mourning the loss of our little children, almost like you would mourn someone who had died. When we discussed it we decided that it was even worse than death because they would never exist in that form again. We know we will see our loved ones who have passed on in the eternities but those sweet little babies and bouncy boys and girls will never be with us again.
A few months ago I was grumbling to a friend in our neighborhood about my longing for my departed children. We are of similar age and her kids are also out of the house. She expounded for some time about the joys of the empty nest. She said that she and her husband were having the time of their lives, going on trips, skiing, golfing, eating out and on and on. When I left her I felt like she had taught me an unexpected lesson about attitude. All I had to do was change my line of thinking. We are having fun. We are hiking and biking together. Dinners are easier. Mike is doing the dishes every night. We are free to go and do anything our heart desires and we are actually doing many of them. Is it always this hard to appreciate change? Would I really want to go back to getting those little monsters in bed? My empty nester friend has helped me see that there is a life after children and we need to enjoy it--together.
Some time later our church held a special fast for this woman’s husband. He had cancer and would be dead seven weeks later. This woman’s good outlook is blessing all that know her. She came to church to tell us about her husband’s illness with amazing grace and composure. She stood and bore a sweet testimony of God’s love for her family. She taught me a cherished lesson about enjoying my empty nest and now she is teaching me about accepting God’s will.
Church associations help people to share joys and sorrows in a way that is not possible in any other situation. Rabbi Harold Kushner in his book "Who Needs God" wrote about this: "In congregational worship, regularly scheduled services on a Saturday or Sunday morning, I have come to believe that the congregating is more important than the words we speak. Something miraculous happens when people come together seeking the presence of God. The miracle is that we so often find it. Somehow the whole becomes more than the sum of its parts. A spirit is created in our midst which none of us brought there. In fact, each of us came there looking for it because we did not have it when we were alone. But in our coming together, we create the mood and the moment in which God is present." (Pocket Books, p. 149)
I have thought about this couple and know they cherish every wonderful minute together before his untimely death. What if they had been sitting around feeling unhappy because their life had changed and missed all the good times? These memories are surely a joy and comfort now.
God planned for the pains of the empty nest--they are called grandchildren. We have our first and are beginning to understand this. Those lost babies are restored to us in a little different form.
[I wrote this a few years ago but thought of it yesterday in a conversation I had in my writing class. The sting of the Empty Nest gets less and less and we are enjoying it more and more. ]