Empty Nest, Full Heart

My heart weighed heavy this week. Empty nest pangs gnawing at me yet again. My two college age children headed back to their respective schools in upstate New York and Delaware. I cherished our time together as a family during their summer break as never before. No fancy vacations, no beach time together, none of our usual summer rituals. This summer was devoted to helping Mom get back on her feet after a difficult surgery and reviving her usual active life.

Two birds soaring
Two birds soaring

The golden lining of this challenging time was experiencing the depth of love and compassion that deeply bonds our family together. I did not fully appreciate the beautiful beings my children have turned into. They had never been put to the test before. Amy and Max rose to the occasion of caring for me like nothing else could matter more.

Amy carefully doled out medications three times daily, prepared meals, changed linens and folded laundry. Max grocery shopped, ran errands and took our beloved dog, Kooper, for long walks, even on the hottest days. Not that they didn’t have moments of enjoying their own summer, but their selflessness trumped all the other activities in a powerful way.

Everyone handled the disappointment of canceled vacation time with sensitivity and grace. The most amazing part was how much fun we managed to have together as a family, even under difficult circumstances. Friends and neighbors visited and brought meals, treats and fresh flowers, a steady flow of love from our community.

As we packed bags for their return to college and organized clothes, toiletries, and accoutrements for every weather condition and situation that might arise, I reflected to myself about how different July and August felt from summers past. Something changed for each of us  – like for my babies who matured overnight into young, caring adults.

I vividly remember all the years my husband, Martin and I devoted to our children, making sure every earache, boo-boo, tantrum and sadness was tended to. Early on we decided that our most important job in life, despite our busy careers, was our role as parents. We spent many sleepless nights and scrambled days caring for our children in one way or another. It did not occur to me until recently how they absorbed the lessons of loving kindness and selflessness.

The morning Amy and Max left for their respective schools, I unsuccessfully tried to hold back my tears. Hard to believe I had to deal with an empty nest once again. I hugged them harder than usual and gave them kisses until they gently pulled away.

What is your experience with the empty nest?

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