Comments 8

3 Essentials for Practicing Goodbye

3 Essentials for Practicing Goodbye || www.alyssasantos.com

original photo, Victoria Nevland

It was too quiet. Only my boys were left at home.

The plings and dings of video games played in concert with the ticking of my clock. It wouldn’t last long, for boys are noisy most of the time. Jumping on the trampoline, sword-fighting and the persistent buzzing of the teenager’s cell phone receiving text after text.

My girls were off having adventures.

The oldest was dancing through a month of summer in San Francisco at a ballet intensive. Difficult for mamma to let her go that far and that long, but then I must admit that she’s been leaving, stretching those apron strings, since she was seven. The world exists for her to experience with all five senses.

The younger boarded a boat and scooted across a deep blue bay to Theater Camp on the edge of stunning Lake Coeur d’Alene. Five days of cafeteria meals (that thought alone thrilled her). Five nights of raucous cabin antics, a fun cabin leader. Even kapers, the mandatory work responsibilities doled out to campers, presented exciting new challenges and opportunities to this summer camp newbie.

I helped them both pack. Two large suitcases for the older girl. Could we stuff everything in and still make it under the airline weight regulation of fifty pounds? Two small bags for the younger, light enough that she could manage carrying them up the hill to her cabin.

But are they prepared? We are practicing goodbye. Are they ready to make their way without me?

The quiet answer, “Yes.”

How do I know?

A week before she left, I caught my younger girl, kneeling by her bed scrawling in a notebook.

“Whatcha doing?” I asked.

“My Bible study.”

“Really? What are you studying?”

“My Bible has weekly studies. I’m on week five. It’s about forgiveness.”

Who knew? She’d been at this for four weeks?

She showed a page from a small notebook, or PBJ, prayer-bible-journal.

On it was a list of punishments. Six things she’d done wrong and the trouble it made for her. I read her carefully cursive-written list:

        1. I had to not play on the D.S. for a long time.

        2. I had to write a sorry note.

        3. I didn’t get to play on the Wii or computer for two whole weeks!

        4. Wrote, “I will obey my mom.” twenty times.

        5. Be sent to the gym for lunch.

        6. Be sent to my room until my mom got home.

She turned the paper and showed me the backside and in large script I read:  A Lot More!

“What does this mean?” I inquired.

“There’s a lot more than what I could remember, but it’s all forgiven in Jesus. I will always make bad choices and good choices, but Jesus knows that. He’s not surprised. That’s why he came and got in trouble and died on the cross.”

She had written John 1:14 “The Word became a human being and, full of grace and truth, lived among us.”

Tucked into the suitcases of their souls, my daughters carry 3 essentials with them:

1.The reality of Jesus.

2. Grace and truth.

3. Forgiveness.

When we began the parenting journey nothing could prepare us for the journey ahead. No parenting book effectively pulled us through all-night colic. No marriage counseling did the actual hard work of communication for us or taught us how to discipline in love. No math class adequately trained us how to make a checkbook balance as we faced the increase expenses of raising children. We had to learn the value of this single sentence my daughter had written:“The Word became a human being and, full of grace and truth, lived among us.”

Jesus the Word among us, full of grace and truth.

My girls would be thrilled, exhausted, lonely, hurt, happy, full and empty that summer. I could not experience it with them. I heard about it in bits of conversation and over Skype. I saw them different when they came back home, I read it in the straightening of spines, the confidence  in their steps.

So I loosened my grasp and allowed their lives to become knit with mine, not as the tightly woven bond of mother and daughter, but a more  flexible and eternal lacing of our redemption stories. They had this same Jesus, this Word become flesh, full of grace and truth.

We will make our choices and experience the weight and guilt of a “A Lot More”, the mistakes we make and regret. 

But grace rises up all around. It fills the spaces in the soul.

It doesn’t weigh a thing. The burden has already been lifted.We can board that boat and ride across the bay free, open to opportunity, happy for the adventure, wake-water spraying our smiling faces.

We can pack the bags with what matters and practice our goodbye’s along the way.

We can practice forgiveness, pursue the Word, the person of Jesus and the grace and truth He alone offers, that the world simply cannot.

One day, those little people when we love, parent, teach and disciple will have to move out for good, taking those essentials with them. We, and they, can be prepared for what may come when they carry in their souls the reality of Jesus, grace and truth, forgiveness.



  1. Well done. I can’t believe your coming up with this kind of quality everyday! I’m impressed!
    It’s a difficult process letting go. Our oldest is making it a little easier! She’s in her last couple months of college and after having lived on her own for most of it is finishing out with us at home. I think she’s more than ready to go! But I know this, even though she’s the oldest, she’ll never get to far away from her mom…
    Our middle one? She’s already been to Honduras on a medical mission trip. I think she might be a bit different. The little one? Too young to tell just yet. She’s a little more like her dad… Yeah, I’m worried!
    They are all so different, uniquely made by God for His specific purpose. Sorry for rambling, good one.

    • They’re all so different, aren’t they? It’s frightening to realize we’ve been entrusted with their formative years. Yikes! Packing up and shipping off two in ten days’ time was a big deal for me. It’s a good reminder to think about the valuable intangibles we’re sending along with them.

  2. Boy can I relate. I’ve done this several times, including when we sent our then 16 year old to Swaziland for two weeks. Crazy, fun, awesome teenagers. 🙂 They grow up and they move out and on into their own lives. Neat to watch, hard to be part of sometimes.

  3. Wow, Aly…how your momma heart must stretched as they left…so good you let them fly for the summer…wise words…I will probably be asking you for advice when the time comes…great post 🙂

    • It comes in baby steps, Dolly. When my oldest decided she was going off to camp at age 7, I struggled hard with the letting go. She taught me a lot about trusting, that one 🙂

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